4 ways to welcome and celebrate LGBTQ+ college students

As anti-DEI legislation limits the resources available to students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or other sexual orientation than heterosexual (LGBTQ+), Inside Higher Ed recommends four ways higher education institutions and campus leaders can aid students so they can fully engage in the college experience.  

Related: Anti-LGBTQ+ state laws will have an impact on higher ed, experts say

Many college students are part of the LGBTQ+ community, with over one in five (22.3%) of Gen Z adults aged 18-26 in 2023 identifying as LGBTQ+. A recent study of around 1,100 U.S. college and university students conducted by the mental health service TimelyCare and the mental health advocacy organization Active Minds found that LGBTQ+ students were more likely to say they experience loneliness (70.3%), feel isolated from their peers (33.8%), or feel left out (26%) than their non-LGBTQ+-identifying peers. The Trevor Project’s 2024 national survey of 18,000 LGBTQ+ students ages 13-24 found that 39% of young people seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, 50% of young people who wanted mental health care were not able to get it, and 90% reported their mental health was negatively affected by recent politics.

Related: Access to college mental health services saves LGBTQ+ students’ lives, but barriers persist >

Investing in the LGBTQ+ community

With this information in mind, colleges are investing in initiatives that advance engagement and belonging among LGBTQ+ students. Inside Higher Ed highlights four key commitments:

  1. Promote LGBTQ+ visibility through a campus pride celebration. In the U.S., Canada, and other countries, Pride Month occurs in June, just after students have completed their academic year. Some schools have their Campus Pride Month in April, while other colleges, such as the University of Kentucky and George Mason University, host a pride week at the end of March and/or April that includes educational opportunities, guest speakers, and social events that foster a sense of community and belonging.
  2. Designate an online and physical LGBTQ+ resource space. Manhattan College and California State University, Fullerton have opened centers that provide advising, financial aid, programming, and awareness to support members of the LGBTQ+ community on campus.
  3. Create opportunities for peer connections. To address students’ feelings of social isolation, some colleges have established informal spaces and living-learning communities for LGBTQ+ students to connect with each other and find support. Students in the University of Oregon’s LGBTIA+ Scholars program live in the same residence hall and have access to academic advising, social events, and an option to pursue a minor in queer studies. 
  4. Provide targeted support. Colleges are helping LGBTQ+ students navigate the higher education system by creating programs, such as Rio Hondo College’s Queer Initiative Scholars, that offer housing and food insecurity assistance and support groups with a licensed therapist. Roanoke College’s LGBTQ+ Mentoring Program links students to faculty and staff who identify as LGBTQ+ or are personally connected to the community to serve as positive role models and touchstones throughout their academic career. 

Georgetown’s LGBTQ Resource Center

In 2008, Georgetown became the nation’s first Catholic, Jesuit higher education institution to establish an LGBTQ Resource Center. Dedicated to supporting LGBTQ+ students on campus and beyond, the center provides resources, outreach, advocacy, and programming that welcomes and celebrates the diversity of Georgetown’s queer community. The center hosts several community building events throughout the year, culminating with the Lavender Graduation, a special ceremony that brings together the undergraduate and graduate LGBTQ and allied communities across the Main, Law, Medical, and School of Continuing Studies campuses. 

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