GRAPHIC BY MICHAEL SHIREY
It’s fairly commonplace for students to travel out of state to attend college these days. A distant school may provide the best course of study for a particular interest or it may offer overall excellence not available closer to home. Maybe a school elsewhere in the country ends up being the most affordable option, or it could be a romantic interest that is the draw.
Clearly, though, no one should have to leave home simply because an LGBT-friendly higher education opportunity is not close at hand. Campus Pride, a non-profit that works to improve the climate on campuses nationwide, has for the past seven years provided a data resource for students looking to learn more about how individual colleges work to welcome LGBT students (campusprideindex.org).
Its 2014 ratings — released last week — are based on information provided by 425 institutions, evaluating them according to their performance in eight areas: incorporating LGBT issues into formal policies; institutional commitment to supporting LGBT students; academic life; student life; housing; campus safety; counseling and health; and recruitment and retention efforts.
The benchmarks were established by an advisory board made up of Shane L. Windmeyer, Campus Pride’s founder and executive director, Dr. Genny Beeman, director of the Stonewall Center at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Dr. Susan R. Rankin, a retired education professor at Penn State University.
GRAPHIC BY MICHAEL SHIREY
In releasing its newest ratings, Campus Pride named a Top 50 ranking of colleges and universities, a group that includes schools located in 24 of the 50 states. As the accompanying graphic shows, 12 of those states have a greater share of the top 50 than their proportion of the total US population would predict.
Most of the best performing states are those where the most significant advances in LGBT rights overall have been achieved. But the top 50 doesn’t tell the whole story. The ratings assign schools anywhere from one to five stars (the best), and while all of the Top 50 earned five stars, not all of the five-star schools were in the Top 50. Schools in Kansas, Kentucky, and Utah were among the five-star schools that are scattered across the other 24 best performing states as well.
At least one college in another 12 states (and the District of Columbia) scored four or four-and-a-half stars — Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, and Virginia.
And another four states — Arkansas, Nebraska, South Carolina, and West Virginia — have at least one school with ratings of three or three-and-a-half stars — the level at which Campus Pride puts a college on its “honor roll.”
Seven states, however, have no school that currently reports pro-LGBT policies that earn them at least three stars — Alabama, Alaska, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming. And it’s worth noting that, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, there are nearly 2,900 four-year colleges and another 1,700 two-year colleges in the US, so there are a lot of schools Campus Pride is not yet hearing from (though some schools which participate in its index don’t authorize their data to be made public as 425 of them do). It’s hard to know exactly what to make of the silence from several thousand higher education institutions on their commitment to LGBT students.
“Campus Pride applauds all campuses who have ‘come out’ on the Index, regardless of their rating,” Windmeyer said. “By doing so these campuses are taking active responsibility for their LGBT campus community. The Campus Pride Index grew for the fifth consecutive year, but there are still many, many other colleges and universities who have yet to ‘come out’ for their LGBT students and then take adequate steps to protect and ensure a safe, welcoming learning environment.”
Campus Pride's Top 50:
Northern Arizona University
San Diego State University
University of California at Berkeley
University of California at Los Angeles
University of California at Riverside
University of California at Santa Barbara
University of California at Santa Cruz
University of Southern California
University of Central Florida
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
University of Chicago
University of Illinois at Chicago
University of Maryland at College Park
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
University of Michigan
University of Minnesota at Duluth
University of Minnesota at the Twin Cities
Warren Wilson College
Ohio State University
Oregon State University
Portland State University
Southern Oregon University
University of Oregon
Pennsylvania State University
University of Pennsylvania
University of Rhode Island
University of Vermont
Central Washington University
Washington State University
University of Washington
University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee