Does Accreditation Mean a School Is Safe for Queer Students?


Published March 30, 2023

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Accreditation is important for academics — but not so much for queer students' safety. The most LGBTQ-friendly schools score highly on the Campus Pride Index.
Two people holding hands in a park wearing pride sunglasses Credit: Juanmonino / E+ / Getty Images

Accreditation can be a great tool for measuring a school's academics — but it doesn't say much about its student life or how safe the school is for queer students.

If you're looking for a college that prioritizes queer students' safety and wellness, you'll need to consider other factors besides accreditation. These may include LGBTQ+ student organizations, nondiscrimination policies, and regular LGBTQ+ campus workshops.

Here's why college accreditation matters — and how to find the best accredited, queer-friendly school for you.

What Does College Accreditation Mean?

An accredited college meets high academic standards set by an independent accrediting agency. The major benefits of attending an accredited school include being able to easily transfer credits to other institutions and the opportunity to apply for federal financial aid.

There are two types of accreditation: institutional and programmatic. Institutional accreditation applies to whole colleges and universities, whereas programmatic accreditation applies to individual academic programs.

Programmatic accreditation is only important if you're pursuing a professional degree in a field like counseling, nursing, or law. These career paths generally require you to attend an accredited program in order to qualify for state licensure.

Here's a list of all accrediting agencies recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and/or the U.S. Department of Education.

What Makes a School LGBTQ-Friendly?

There are several ways a college can offer a safer, more supportive experience for LGBTQ+ students.

Campus Pride is a national nonprofit that regularly ranks how LGBTQ-friendly U.S. colleges are using a proprietary system called the Campus Pride Index.

The Campus Pride Index takes into account the following factors, plus more:

  • Policies related to nondiscrimination and how the school deals with homophobic and transphobic violence and harassment
  • Official recognition and activity level of LGBTQ+ student organizations
  • Campus LGBTQ+ workshops
  • Availability of LGBTQ+ housing
  • Curricula emphasizing LGBTQ+ issues
  • Presence of LGBTQ+ faculty and staff networking groups

If you're not sure whether a school you're interested in has any or all of these features, search for the school on Campus Pride's website to view its LGBTQ-friendliness rating.

Alternatively, contact the school's office of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Some universities have an office of LGBTQ+ affairs.

Does Accreditation Affect How Queer-Friendly a School Is?

Accreditation doesn't ultimately affect how queer-friendly a college is — all it does is prove that the school has met certain quality standards.

Each accrediting organization maintains academic benchmarks that schools must meet to qualify for accreditation.

According to CHEA, those benchmarks can vary among accreditors. Typically, however, they revolve around the following areas:

  • Expected student achievement
  • Curriculum
  • Faculty
  • Services and academic support for students
  • Financial capacity

In short, accreditation largely relies on academics — LGBTQ+ student life doesn't play a role in the accreditation process.

Best Accredited LGBTQ-Friendly Schools

You can find queer-friendly schools all across the country. Campus Pride regularly measures how LGBTQ-friendly a school is using the Campus Pride Index.

Here are the schools Campus Pride ranked as the most LGBTQ-friendly in 2022. All of the schools below received five out of five stars on the Campus Pride Index.

Source: Campus Pride Index

Accredited Schools That Are NOT LGBTQ-friendly

Being accredited doesn't guarantee that a college is safe for queer students.

In addition to ranking the most queer-friendly colleges, Campus Pride measures the worst schools for LGBTQ+ students — and many of them are accredited.

All schools on the organization's "Worst List" have either filed for a Title IX exemption or have a record of anti-LGBTQ+ actions, according to Campus Pride.

Here are some well-known regionally accredited schools that made Campus Pride's Worst List in 2022:

  • Baylor University
  • Bethel University
  • Brigham Young University
  • Colorado Christian University
  • Harding University
  • Indiana Wesleyan University
  • Liberty University

How to Find Accredited LGBTQ-Friendly Colleges: 4 Tips

To ensure you're getting a quality education and that employers and institutions will recognize your degree, look for an accredited school. Once you narrow down your top accredited schools, you can dig deeper into each school's level of LGBTQ+ friendliness.

Here are some tips to help you find the best accredited, queer-friendly college for you.

  1. 1

    Refer to the Campus Pride Index

    The Campus Pride Index serves as a database for hundreds of colleges and universities. If you're eyeing a certain school, check that it's in this database and note what it offers LGBTQ+ students — and what it doesn't.
  2. 2

    Contact the School

    Many colleges have an office of diversity, equity, and inclusion or something similar. By contacting this office, you should be able to get answers to any questions you have about the school's LGBTQ+ attitudes and policies.

    Here are some questions you might ask:

    • Does your school have any antidiscrimination policies in place?
    • Are there any LGBTQ+ student organizations?
    • Do you offer LGBTQ+ housing?
    • Do you provide mental health resources for LGBTQ+ students?
  3. 3

    Research the City and School's Surrounding Area

    You likely won't be on campus 100% of the time as a college student — you're bound to explore the surrounding area. That's why it's useful to know what attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community are like in the area around campus.

    To find this out, refer to the Human Rights Campaign's 2022 Municipal Equality Index. This resource includes most major U.S. cities, making it easy to see how a certain city compares to others when it comes to nondiscrimination laws, law enforcement, municipal services, and more.

  4. 4

    Talk to Current LGBTQ+ Students

    Current students' perspectives can offer unique insights you won't find elsewhere. Try reaching out to students through social media and LGBTQ+ campus clubs and asking about their experiences on campus and in the surrounding area.

Next Steps

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