10 Best LGBTQ+ Friendly US Colleges of 2023

POSTED ON 10/13/2023 BY The Red Pen

LGBTQ+ students socializing on campus.

Numerous studies underscore the significance of role models and supportive communities in fostering the development of LGBTQ+ identities during high school and college. It is well-documented that LGBTQ+ students frequently encounter difficulties establishing a sense of belonging, so they carefully consider housing choices, public safety, access to support groups, social opportunities, and institutional policies when deciding which college to attend.

Campus Pride, a leading non-profit organisation in the US, strives to create LGBTQ-friendly learning environments by administering the Campus Pride Index. Shane Windmeyer, the Executive Director of Campus Pride, says, “In today’s climate, which finds LGBTQ+ identities being used as political talking points and laws being weaponised against LGBTQ+ people, the commitment to creating campuses that welcome and protect LGBTQ+ students can not be taken for granted. The colleges and universities that made our list this year deserve this highest recognition for the efforts they have made and continue to make.” 

Since 2009, Campus Pride annually releases the ‘Best of the Best List,’ recognising colleges and universities for creating safer, more welcoming environments for LGBTQ+ students. This ranking evaluates eight critical LGBTQ-friendly criteria, including housing, campus safety, academics, student life, and efforts related to recruitment and retention. The following universities are on the Campus Pride 2023 Best of the Best LGBTQ-Friendly Colleges & Universities List in the US:

1) The University of Pennsylvania 

Five stars on the Campus Pride Index.  

Located in Philadelphia, Penn State, the university proudly hosts one of the oldest LGBT Centers in the US, dedicated to serving the LGBTQ+ community for more than three decades. The university’s commitment to inclusivity is evident through its initiatives, such as the Queer Peers, a community for first-year LGBTQ+. The university’s dedication extends to policies and facilities like gender-neutral restrooms, the AD84 Chosen Identity Policy, Ally House, the Gender Diverse Care Team, and the Safer People Safer Places. These efforts collectively foster a supportive environment for sexually and gender-diverse communities on campus.

2) Purdue University

Five stars on the Campus Pride Index.  

Purdue University is celebrated as the Best of the Best LQBTQ-Friendly Campus. Their LGBTQ Center is part of the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging and promotes LGBTQ+ visibility, resource accessibility, and supportive policies. Lowell Kane, director of student engagement and the Purdue LGBTQ Center, says, “Purdue is a campus where we can all find community, access resources, and feel a true sense of belonging.” The centre collaborates with various stakeholders, from students and staff to alumni, making Purdue University a national leader in LGBTQ+ support. The centre offers programmes like Fabulous Fridays and Rachael’s Game Nights that assist students with housing, counselling, and financial resources. They employ the Positive Youth Development model to foster resilience. Rainbow Callout is a welcoming event where LGBTQ+ students, allies, staff, and faculty connect with campus departments and organisations. Boilers OUT Loud! showcases authentic stories from LGBTQ+ Purdue community members, offering a mix of emotions and experiences.

3) The University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC)

Five stars on the Campus Pride Index.  

UIC excelled in various categories, including LGBTQ academic and student life, housing, campus safety, and recruitment and retention efforts. The university’s commitment to supporting LGBTQ+ students, faculty, and staff is evident through its top-notch campus resources and support services. Amalia Pallares, the vice chancellor for diversity, equity, and engagement, says, “We are truly honoured to be recognised by Campus Pride for our support of LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff at UIC as they explore and affirm their intersectional identities. Social justice is at the heart of our existence, and we will continue to build and promote a welcoming and positive climate for all of our students.”

UIC reinforces its commitment to inclusivity through the UIC Gender and Sexuality Center, which encourages critical thinking, learning, and activism among students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the community. The university also offers additional resources such as the Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer People, the UIC Bias Reporting Tool, LGBTQ+ Inclusive Care at UI Health, and a range of ally resources, among others.

4) The Ohio State University 

Five stars on the Campus Pride Index.  

The Ohio State University is recognised as the  Best of the Best LQBTQ-Friendly Campus by Campus Pride. It is dedicated to ensuring the well-being of LGBTQ+ students by providing a safe, inclusive, and connected campus environment, such as gender-inclusive housing and restrooms. The university’s commitment extends to all LGBTQ+ students, especially those marginalised within the LGBTQ community, such as QTPOC and transgender students. Supportive student organisations and communities encourage LGBTQ+ students to engage in numerous on- and off-campus opportunities, fostering friendships and lasting memories. Its Center for Belonging and Social Change hosts LGBTQ+ Initiatives throughout the year, marking significant events like LGBTQ History Month, Trans Awareness Week, Trans Day of Visibility, and Pride Month. They also offer LGBTQ*mmunity, a weekly community connections space for LGBTQ+ students and allies. LGBTQ+ alumni continue their involvement through the Scarlet and Gay LGBTQ Alumni Society, contributing to LGBTQ+ education and awareness within the community. There are 17 active LGBTQ student organisations within the university. 

5) University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst) 

Five stars on the Campus Pride Index.  

UMass Amherst supports LGBTQ+ students in various ways, including the ability to change their name and gender on records, gender-inclusive housing, and access to numerous gender-inclusive restrooms. Additionally, it covers mental health counselling, hormone replacement therapy, and gender-affirming surgeries under the Student Health Benefit Plan (SHBP). Reflecting on this accomplishment, Genny Beemyn, the UMass Amherst Stonewall Center’s director, said, “We are honoured that UMass was recognised for a 10th consecutive year as a top LGBTQ+ inclusive college.” UMass Amherst’s history of LGBTQ+ advocacy includes establishing the Stonewall Center in 1985, one of the nation’s first LGBTQ campus centres. In 1992, the university pioneered the first residence hall programme for LGBTQ and allied students. For nearly 35 years, the Stonewall Center has been a hub for cultural and educational programming, support services, advocacy, and community outreach through Queer-e, a weekly newsletter highlighting LGBTQ+ events.

6) George Mason University

Five stars on the Campus Pride Index.  

 According to Josh Kinchen, the director of Mason’s LGBTQ+ Resources Center, what sets the university apart is the “genuine, authentic support” provided by faculty, staff, and LGBTQ+ representation across administrative levels. The LGBTQ+ Resources Center at George Mason University, with over two decades of service, offers various leadership and mentoring programmes and also hosts signature events throughout the academic year, including Lavender Orientation, LGBTQ+ History Month, National Coming Out Day, Trans Awareness Week and Mason Pride Week. For instance, the LGBTQ+ Peer Mentoring Program, initiated in 2019, focuses on promoting the academic success and well-being of LGBTQ+ students. To address the challenges faced by transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming students while shopping, the university also introduced the Trans Clothing Closet, providing free clothing and accessories. Identity Nights at George Mason University offer unstructured gatherings where individuals with shared identities can connect and discuss various topics. 

7) San Diego State University (SDSU) 

Five stars on the Campus Pride Index 

SDSU is the only university in California featured in 2023’s Best of the Best list. This recognition reflects the commitment to creating an inclusive and welcoming environment, particularly queer and transgender students. Approximately eight percent of SDSU students identify as LGBTQ+. Jessica Nare, assistant vice president for Community & Belonging in the Division of Student Affairs and Campus Diversity, stated, “We know that students are more successful academically when they feel like they belong on campus.” The university has several initiatives, including the Pride Center, LGBTQ Studies, Pride ERG, and the LGBTQ Research Consortium. SDSU’s Pride Center provides peer mentorship to first-year undergraduate students, including a one-credit seminar course on LGBTQ+ topics. SDSU also provides SafeZones@SDSU, which includes training programmes and social justice initiatives. The university offers engaging events like Queer Crafternoon, Between the Covers Book Club, and Kickin’ It Queer to further enrich the campus experience for students.

8) Elon University 

Five stars on the Campus Pride Index. 

Elon University has earned a spot on the 2023 “Best of the Best” list from Campus Pride for the ninth consecutive year.  Luis Garay, director of the Gender & LGBTQIA Center, stated,” This recognition reflects the collective effort of many on campus who have contributed to LGBTQ+ inclusion at Elon University. Students often choose Elon due to its high ranking on the Campus Pride Index, contributing to the university’s mission of creating an inclusive campus community of equity, justice, and academic excellence.” 

To further inclusion for nearly 200 incoming LGBTQ+ students, the Gender & LGBTQIA Center at Elon University has initiated various on-campus programmes and Gender Inclusive Housing (GIH). The university’s initiatives include a Gender and Sexuality Living Learning Community and SexEU, an LGBTQ+-inclusive sexual health education programme. Elon University hosts and collaborates on various events throughout the year, including Dragstravaganza, Kiki Ball at Elon, Lavender Graduation, Identity Weeks, and Elon Cares.

9) University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (UW-Eau Claire’s)

Five stars on the Campus Pride Index.  

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has created a safe and welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ students and has earned a spot in the 2023 Campus Pride Best of the Best ranking. Kallie Friede, director of UW-Eau Claire’s Gender and Sexuality Resource Center (GSRC), emphasises the institution’s commitment to supporting and celebrating LGBTQIA+ students. The GSRC, deeply integrated into the university, collaborates with colleagues across campus to ensure the success of  LGBTQ+ students. Their housing and residency facilities include Rainbow Floors, a safe space for those with LGBTQ+ identities. UW-Eau Claire’s signature programmes and recurring events, such as Q’nnect, Walking OUT: A Queer Graduation Celebration, and The CookOUT, contribute to creating an inclusive campus. 

10) University of Vermont (UVM) 

Five stars on the Campus Pride Index 

 UVM is committed to empowering LGBTQ+ students and highlights its excellence in counselling and health, campus safety, support, institutional commitment, and gender-inclusive housing and restrooms. UVM’s Prism Center, known for events like Rainbow Graduation, plays a significant role in making it one of the best LGBTQ+-friendly universities. Its  Provost Patty Prelock emphasised the university’s dedication to creating a safe and inclusive campus during Pride Week, celebrating the success of various individuals and resources. 

Additionally, UVM provides valuable resources like the Queer & Trans Mindfulness Circle and Let’s Talk, offering 30-minute informal drop-in consultations with a counsellor. UVM supports its LGBTQ+ community members with various services, including gender-inclusive housing and assistance with name changes, as well as offering LGBTQA+-friendly health services to ensure the well-being of its students. 
These outstanding LGBTQ+-friendly colleges in the US exemplify a commitment to inclusivity, diversity, and support for all students. They create safe and welcoming environments, fostering academic excellence while championing equality. You may also read our guide to US undergraduate courses or our latest blog on acing third-party interviews. We assist applicants in identifying and applying to colleges that align with their goals and interests. If you need help with undergraduate applications, please contact us. Our US admission specialists look forward to assisting you.