The 12 Best Online Colleges for LGBTQ+ Students

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For students who may feel culturally isolated, marginalized, or otherwise excluded by their communities, online college can be a doorway to a more inclusive, diverse, and welcoming world. Online college represents a tremendous opportunity for students of all backgrounds, because it creates a flexible, accessible, and effective way to pursue an education, earn college credits, and advance toward a degree. But online college represents more than just educational opportunity. If you identify as LGBTQ+, then online college can be a unique opportunity for you to find support, academic enrichment, shared interests, and social engagement beyond your home, neighborhood, or community.

Because online college creates connections that transcend geographical boundaries, online college could be the first real opportunity that LGBTQ+ students in small towns, rural regions, or more conservative communities have to meet other LGBTQ+ students or even to express their identities freely.

Enrolling in an online college would make you part of a whole new community that is completely separate from your geographical setting. As part of that community, you now have access to the student groups, counseling services, educational resources, and faculty that come with it. If you live in an area where support for and visibility of LGBTQ+ individuals are scarce, then this access can become a critical source for advocacy.

With this in mind, we have ranked the very best online colleges for LGBTQ+ students based on a variety of factors; these factors include both online college excellence and the degree of inclusivity and openness that help make LGBTQ+ students feel at home within a college community.

To learn more about choosing the best school for your needs and priorities, check out our Guide to Colleges for LGBTQ+ Students.

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A Note on Terminology

LGBTQ+ refers explicitly to individuals who identity as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer, but the term also acknowledges and includes individuals who identify as intergender, intersexual, pansexual, asexual, gender binary, questioning, and otherwise. The LGBT terminology remains a popular shorthand term, but increasingly, LGBTQ is gaining ground as the preferred term. Some groups or organizations may prefer the LGBTQIA terminology, which also makes explicit inclusion of individuals who identify as intersex or asexual. In some cases, the A may also refer to allies.

Based on our deference to Campus Pride and other like-minded organizations, we have selected what our research shows is the most widely accepted terminology among allies, activists, and LGBTQ+ community members. LGBTQ+ is the terminology that we use throughout this guide, but this is not to the exclusion of any groups or individuals. To the contrary, the use of the + suffix indicates inclusion even in the event that additional groups or communities are identified in the future. The intention of this selected terminology, this guide, and TBS in general, is total inclusion.

Online College Rankings

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Check out the following resources to learn about online college and the opportunities that could await you.

Online Colleges for LGBTQ+ Student Ranking Guidelines

To make this ranking, we merged the data from our list of the Best Online Colleges for 2019 and the Campus PrideBest of the Best LGBTQ+-friendly college list.

We selected the online colleges on our list based on the quality of the program and types of courses offered, in addition to the faculty, awards, rankings, and reputation, including the school’s reputation for providing excellent online degree programs.

Campus Pride, a leading advocacy organization for LGBTQ+ students and youth, selected its Best of the Best colleges based on their overall ratings on the Campus Pride Index and specific LGBTQ+-inclusive benchmark measures. In order to be in the ‘Best of the Best’ listing, an institution had to score the highest percentages in the LGBTQ+-friendly benchmarks for policies, programs and practices.

Campus Pride notes that its Index provides campuses the opportunity to come out as LGBTQ+-friendly and take responsibility for continually improving their LGBTQ+ campus climate.

Colleges on the Campus Pride index were scored on a five-star scale that used the following key indicators:

Campus Pride uses these indicators to deliver an inclusion report card to every campus on its list.

After combining our research with Campus Pride’s scores, we have identified the Best Online Colleges for LGBTQ+ Students; these colleges offer the highest quality online education and the greatest variety of reputable online degree programs with the most inclusive academic, cultural, and community standards.

The Best Accredited Online Colleges and Universities

Each online college and university on this list is regionally accredited, nonprofit, and offers a range of online bachelor’s degree programs. Our goal is to identify and rank the best accredited online colleges available to ensure the greatest online student satisfaction. In fact, every single college, university, and online college we rank is regionally accredited.

The 12 Best Online Colleges for LGBTQ+ Students

1. Pennsylvania State University – World Campus

University Park, Pennsylvania

Launched in 1998, Penn State World Campus is the online college division of the highly respected Pennsylvania State University, with an enrollment of over 14,000 students.

Online Degrees from Penn State

Penn State World Campus offers more than 200 online programs, including a full variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as online certifications. Penn State’s World Campus awards degrees in virtually every field—including popular degree programs like engineering, education, healthcare, and business.

Online degree offerings include:

  • 72 online certificates
  • 11 online associate degrees
  • 48 online bachelor’s degrees
  • 78 online master’s degrees
  • 1 online doctorate

Penn State also ranks among the Top 10 Online Degree Programs in over 30 of our degree-specific rankings.

According to Campus Pride:

The Pennsylvania State University is one of the top choices in the country for LGBTQA students. We have policies and procedures in place to offer protections and services to support our students. Our LGBTQA Student Resource Center (SRC) offers a variety of education, advocacy, and outreach on campus and in the classroom. We have a sexuality and gender studies minor, well trained campus staff and faculty on LGBTQ+ topics and a welcoming and friendly staff at the LGBTQA SRC to assist students once they arrive at Penn State.

Visit Penn State’s LGBTQA Student Resource Center

Accreditation

  • Pennsylvania State University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Penn State member of the Association of American Universities (an association of excellent North American research universities)
  • Penn State’s Smeal College of Business also holds programmatic accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International)

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2. University of Massachusetts

Amherst, Massachusetts

The University of Massachusetts (UMass), a public university system established in 1863, enrolls over 74,000 students across five campuses, and offers one of the nation’s best online colleges. UMass Online is a recipient of the Excellence in Distance Teaching Education award from the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA).

Online Degrees from UMass Online

Through its various satellite campuses, UMass ranks among the Top 10 Online Colleges on more than 40 of our degree-specific rankings.

Online degree offerings include:

  • 21 online certificates
  • 1 online associate degree
  • 22 online bachelor’s degrees
  • 14 online master’s degrees
  • 6 online doctorates

According to Campus Pride:

UMass Amherst earns a five out five in every single category and subcategory used to measure inclusion and diversity. This denotes that UMass is among the most inclusive and welcoming colleges in the U.S.

Visit UMass’s LGBTQ+ Center, Stonewall Center

Accreditation

  • The University of Massachusetts is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
  • The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International) provides programmatic accreditation to the University of Massachusetts branches in Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, and Lowell

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3. Indiana University – Bloomington

Bloomington, Indiana

Indiana University, a public university system with over nine campuses to its name, enrolls over 43,000 students at its main campus in Bloomington. Boasting over 580,000 alumni, Indiana University attracts excellent students from all over the world.

Online Degrees from IU Online

IU Online offers hundreds of online classes and more than 100 online degrees and academic certificate programs. Indiana University also ranks #1 on our list of The Best Online Colleges in Indiana.

Online degree offerings include:

  • 55 online certificates
  • 1 online associate degree
  • 16 online bachelor’s degrees
  • 30 online master’s degrees
  • 5 online doctorates

According to Campus Pride:

Indiana University’s Bloomington Campus earns five of five ratings both for its Sexual Orientation Score and its Gender Identity/Expression Score, making it a premier college in the areas of inclusion and diversity.

Visit Indiana University’s LGBTQ+ Culture Center

Accreditation

  • Indiana University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International) also provides programmatic accreditation to Indiana University–Bloomington and Indiana University–Indianapolis

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4. Washington State University

Pullman, Washington

Washington State University (WSU), a non-profit, public research university founded in 1890, enrolls about 28,000 students. WSU launched the Washington State University Global Campus in 2012.

Online Degrees from WSU

Washington State University’s Global Campus appears among the Top 10 online colleges on more than a dozen of our degree-specific rankings. Online degree offerings include:

  • 23 online certificates
  • 17 online bachelor’s degrees
  • 16 online master’s degrees

Washington State University Global Campus ranks #1 among the Best Online Colleges in Washington.

According to Campus Pride:

Washington State earns five of five ratings both for its Sexual Orientation Score and its Gender Identity/Expression Score, making it a premier college in the areas of inclusivity and diversity.

Visit Washington State’s Gender Identity/Expression and Sexual Orientation Resource Center

Accreditation

  • Washington State University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International) provides accreditation to Washington State University’s Carson College of Business

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5. Kansas State University

Manhattan, Kansas

Kansas State University, a public university founded in 1863, enrolls over 22,000 students. across nine colleges.

Online Degrees from K-State

Kansas State University Global Campus provides nearly 80 online degree and certification programs and ranks #1 among the Best Online Colleges in Kansas.

Online degree offerings include:

  • 30 online certificates
  • 12 online bachelor’s degrees
  • 32 online master’s degrees
  • 4 online doctorates

According to Campus Pride:

The LGBT Resource Center at Kansas State University is dedicated to helping the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) students, staff, and faculty and allied members of our campus and surrounding communities to be more secure, educated, and productive in their personal and professional surroundings. It is the goal of the Resource Center to promote equity, respect, and social justice through programs, outreach, and education. The Center…provides information regarding resources available to those of differing sexualities and gender identities and helps to build and nurture a diverse and inclusive campus community…The Resource Center opened its doors in August of 2010 and currently has been awarded a five-star Premiere Campus rating based upon the Campus Pride Campus Climate Index.

Visit Kansas State University’s LGBT Resource Center

Accreditation

  • Kansas State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Several of the programs also hold specialized accreditations, including those from:
    • The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International)
    • The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)

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6. Rutgers University

New Brunswick, New Jersey

Rutgers University–New Brunswick, a public university founded in 1766, is the oldest Rutgers campus and a member of the Association of American Universities. It enrolls more than 49,000 students.

Online Degrees from Rutgers

Through Rutgers Online, Rutgers University provides more than 80 completely online undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs. Rutgers ranks #1 among the Best Online Colleges in New Jersey.

Online degree offerings include:

  • 11 online certificates
  • 20 online bachelor’s degrees
  • 43 online master’s degrees
  • 7 online doctorates

According to Campus Pride:

Rutgers University earns five of five ratings both for its Sexual Orientation Score and its Gender Identity/Expression Score, as well as a five of five overall rating, making it among the most inclusive and diverse U.S. colleges.

Visit Rutgers University’s Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities

Accreditation

  • Rutgers University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Rutgers holds programmatic accreditation from:
    • The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International)
    • the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)

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7. University of Louisville

Louisville, Kentucky

The University of Louisville, a public university founded in 1798, enrolls more than 21,000 students across a dozen schools and colleges.

Online Degrees from University of Louisville

The University of Louisville offers 45 online degree and certificate programs, including ranked programs in areas such as criminal justice, social work, and civil engineering.

Online degree offerings include:

  • 9 online certificates
  • 14 online bachelor’s degrees
  • 22 online master’s degrees

The University of Louisville ranks #1 among the Best Online Colleges in Kentucky.

According to Campus Pride:

The University of Louisville strives to foster and sustain an environment of inclusiveness that empowers us all to achieve our highest potential without fear of prejudice or bias. We commit ourselves to building an exemplary educational community that offers a nurturing and challenging intellectual climate, a respect for the spectrum of human diversity, and a genuine understanding of the many differences-including race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, disability, religion, national origin or military status-that enrich a vibrant metropolitan research university. We expect every member of our academic family to embrace the underlying values of this vision and to demonstrate a strong commitment to attracting, retaining and supporting students, faculty and staff who reflect the diversity of our larger society.

Visit University of Louisville’s LGBT Center

Accreditation

  • The University of Louisville is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • The university also holds programmatic accreditation from:
    • The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International)
    • The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)
    • The Engineering Accreditation Commission of Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)

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8. Ohio State University

Columbus, Ohio

The Ohio State University (OSU), a land-grant, space-grant, sea-grant, public university, began in 1870 with a focus in mechanical and agricultural disciplines and has grown into a comprehensive university. Among the largest university campuses in the nation, OSU enrolls about 60,000 students on its main Columbus campus with more than 66,000 across all campuses. The university also boasts more than 475,000 living alumni worldwide.

Online Degrees from Ohio State University

Ohio State Online pride the same rigorous, innovative programs – and the same world-renowned faculty—as OSU’s traditional on-campus programs. Students can pursue a handful of undergraduate programs, more than a dozen master’s degrees and a Doctor of Nursing Practice all in a convenient, flexible, online format.

According to Campus Pride:

Ohio State University earns five of five ratings both for its Sexual Orientation Score and its Gender Identity/Expression Score, as well as a five of five overall rating, making it one of the premier colleges for inclusivity and diversity.

Visit Ohio State’s LGBTQ Initiatives through the Student Life Multicultural Center

Accreditation

Ohio State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

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9. University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (UWM) has offered quality education for more than 130 years. Since its beginnings in 1885 the university has grown to one of the largest universities in Wisconsin. A member of the University of Wisconsin System, UWM consists of more than a dozen colleges and schools offering nearly 200 degree programs.

Online Degrees from University of Wisconsin Milwaukee

Through UWM Online students can pursue more than 30 online degrees and certificates and enroll in more than 700 online courses.

According to Campus Pride:

Diversity is not a number or a quota at UWM—Wisconsin’s most diverse and dynamic institution of higher education. UWM faculty, students and staff provide cultural programming, support services, academics and international opportunities that support the full depth, breadth and diversity of the human experience. From thousands of first-generation college students and the largest population of student veterans in Wisconsin to a nationally known LGBT Resource Center, UWM strives to be a place where all feel welcome and supported, invigorated and educated. UWM meets this commitment through the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee for LGBT+ Advocacy. Established in 1995, the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee for LGBT+ Advocacy is a non-elected, standing committee devoted to improving climate and diversity by making recommendations related to current and proposed policies and practices that affect LGBT+ employees and students.

Visit University of Wisconsin Milwaukee’s LGBT Resource Center

Accreditation

The University of Wisconsin Milwaukee is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

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10. Lehigh University

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Lehigh University Online.

Online Degrees from Lehigh University Online

Lehigh University’s Office of Distance Education has been committed to providing high-quality, academically-challenging graduate degrees, certificates, and professional development courses to working professionals since 1992. Ranked in the top tier of national research universities each year, Lehigh University offers graduate-level online programs in business, engineering, science and interdisciplinary areas to working professionals through its distance education programs. Each program, whether degree or certificate, focuses study in an area through selected courses, offering benefits to students and employers alike.

According to Campus Pride:

Lehigh University is first and foremost an educational institution, committed to developing the future leaders of our changing global society. We affirm the inherent dignity in all of us, and we maintain an inclusive and equitable community. We recognize and celebrate the richness contributed to our lives by our diverse community. We promote mutual understanding among the members of our community. We confront and reject discrimination in all its forms, including that based on age, color, disability, gender identity, genetic information, marital status, national or ethnic origin, political beliefs, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, socio economics, veteran status, or any differences that have been excuses for misunderstanding, dissension, or hatred. We affirm academic freedom within our community and uphold our commitment to the highest standards of respect, civility, courtesy, and sensitivity toward every individual. We recognize each person’s right to think and speak as dictated by personal belief and to respectfully disagree with or counter another’s point of view. We promote open expression of our individuality and our differences within the bounds of University policies. We acknowledge each person’s obligation to the community of which we have chosen to be a part. We take pride in building and maintaining a culture that is founded on these principles of unity and respect.

Visit Lehigh University’s Pride Center

Accreditation

Lehigh University is regionally accredited by Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

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11. Portland State University

Portland, Oregon

Portland State University (PSU) has provided education since 1946. The University Online provides undergraduate and graduate degree programs, special endorsements, and certificate programs, as well as independent-study programs. The institution is an internationally recognized university. Situated in Portland, Oregon, PSU consists of numerous colleges and schools. Portland State University Online provides undergraduate and graduate degree programs, special endorsements, and certificate programs, as well as independent-study programs. The institution is an internationally recognized university.

Online Degrees from Portland State University Online

Of particular interest is the criminology and criminal justice bachelor’s-degree online program. It covers subjects including the justice system, crime prevention, crime, rehabilitation, enforcement, corrections, and the factors that contribute to criminal behavior. The program also reviews criminal sociology, psychology, crime analysis, and criminal behavior. PSU reports the Division of Criminology & Criminal Justice has a long history of providing education to law enforcement and other criminal-justice professionals.

According to Campus Pride:

Portland State University earns five of five ratings both for its Sexual Orientation Score and its Gender Identity/Expression Score, as well as a five of five overall rating, making it among the most inclusive U.S. colleges.

Visit Portland State University’s Queer Resource Center

Accreditation

Portland State University is regionally accredited by Northwest Commission on Colleges and Education.

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12. University of Maryland University College

Adelphi, MD

University of Maryland University College (UMUC) serves more than 90,000 students worldwide. It is a member of the University System of Maryland. UMUC is one of the largest distance-learning universities in the world. It specializes in distance learning for adult, non-traditional students. The college operates satellite campuses in both the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area and throughout Maryland.

Online Degrees from University of Maryland University College

UMUC offers about 120 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs and undergraduate and graduate certificates. Undergraduate degrees are available in areas such as computers/information technology, business management, criminal justice/legal studies, communications, social sciences, and other areas. Most graduate programs are available both in traditional classrooms and online.

According to Campus Pride:

University of Maryland earns five of five ratings both for its Sexual Orientation Score and its Gender Identity/Expression Score, as well as a five of five overall rating, making it among the most inclusive U.S. colleges.

Visit University of Maryland’s LGBT Equity Center

Accreditation

University of Maryland University College (UMUC) is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

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