Most students and their families have to consider affordability when choosing a college. But with homophobia, transphobia and other forms of discrimination running rampant in the world and on college campuses, LGBTQ students need to think about how welcoming their college of choice will be, too.
Nonprofit group Campus Pride developed the Campus Pride Index to examine LGBTQ acceptance on college campuses based on policies, administrative support, campus community involvement and other factors. Schools are rated on a scale from one to five stars.
For LGBTQ Pride Month, Student Loan Hero researchers culled colleges and universities with a four-star rating or higher and ranked these schools based on affordability.
- Florida is well-represented among the most affordable LGBTQ-friendly schools for in-state students. Among the top 10 are Florida Atlantic University (Boca Raton), Florida State University (Tallahassee), the University of Central Florida (Orlando) and the University of North Florida (Jacksonville). California also has two schools in the top 10.
- Public schools offer the best bet for in-state students looking for affordability. The 10 most affordable LGBTQ-friendly schools are public colleges, while the 10 least affordable are private universities.
- The more expensive schools are slightly less LGBTQ-friendly, on average. The average Campus Pride Index rating of the 10 least affordable LGBTQ-friendly schools is 4.35 out of 5, compared with 4.5 for the 10 most affordable schools.
- When comparing out-of-state tuition and fees, Illinois is the state most represented at the top. Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Eastern Illinois University (Charleston) and Northern Illinois University (DeKalb) crack the top 10.
Staying in the state not a bad idea for Floridians looking for the most affordable LGBTQ-friendly schools
Salt Lake Community College in Utah takes the top spot for in-state affordability, but Florida contributes four schools to the top 10, giving residents several options for affordable in-state tuition and LGBTQ acceptance.
If you’re looking to save money on college tuition and avoid a mountain of student debt, check out the five most affordable LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities.
1. Salt Lake Community College
Utahns looking for an affordable in-state option that ranks well for LGBTQ-friendliness should consider Salt Lake Community College. The two-year public college offers four associate degree programs and is home to one of the most diverse student bodies in the state.
Student organizations and regularly scheduled LGBTQ social activities help give SLCC its four-star Campus Pride Index rating, while its tuition for in-state students falls just below $4,000 a year. But that value isn’t reserved for in-state students — SLCC also ranks No. 4 in the out-of-state rankings, making it a reasonable option for LGBTQ students across the country.
2. Pellissippi State Community College
Students who call Tennessee home can find major savings by starting their careers at the public Pellissippi State Community College, based in Knoxville. Rather than paying more than $13,000 a year at a four-year college — like the nearby University of Tennessee flagship — students can study at PSCC for two years for $4,378 a year before transferring.
PSCC offers several transfer pathways to four-year schools, including articulation agreements with more than 30 universities. Plus, PSCC earns high marks for its LGBTQ campus safety and counseling and health resources.
3. Florida Atlantic University
The first Florida school and the first four-year institution in Student Loan Hero’s rankings, Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton is an affordable and LGBTQ-friendly public option for students looking for a traditional bachelor’s degree program. FAU also features the highest Campus Pride Index score — 4.5 out of 5 stars — among the top five most affordable schools.
4. SUNY Westchester Community College
The Northeast might not be the best region to find an affordable college, but SUNY Westchester Community College is an outlier in that regard. With in-state tuition at just over $5,000, WCC offers more than 60 degree and certificate programs at a modest sticker price. Students can feel comforted knowing WCC earns a five-star rating for LGBTQ campus safety.
5. Florida State University
Rounding out the top five for in-state affordability, Florida State University prides itself in maintaining Preeminent University status from the state by meeting high standards for measures like student retention and research investment. Students can expect a rigorous academic schedule complemented by a five-star rated LGBTQ student life experience.
|Top 10 most affordable LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities by in-state tuition|
|Rank||Institution||Campus Pride Index Score||In-state tuition|
|1||Salt Lake Community College||4||$3,929|
|2||Pellissippi State Community College||4||$4,378|
|3||Florida Atlantic University||4.5||$4,879|
|4||SUNY Westchester Community College||4||$5,036|
|5||Florida State University||4||$5,656|
|6||University of Central Florida||5||$6,368|
|7||University of North Florida||4.5||$6,389|
|8||Kennesaw State University||5||$6,456|
|9||California State University, Long Beach||5||$6,834|
|10||California State University, Northridge||5||$6,977|
How to find affordable schools that fit your style
When searching for the right college to pursue your degree, it can be overwhelming to see a never-ending list of schools with different highlights or pitfalls. Narrow the search by knowing what type of school might offer a better savings opportunity on tuition and fees.
The most affordable colleges and universities are far more likely to be public institutions. All 10 of the most affordable LGBTQ-friendly schools are public, while the opposite is true for the 10 private schools that make up the least affordable LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities.
Of course, financial implications might not be the deciding factor for all students. But when it comes to LGBTQ-friendliness, affordability may be a bonus. The 10 most affordable colleges score slightly higher on the Campus Pride Index than the least affordable schools.
Since all schools in Student Loan’s Hero rankings needed at least four out of five stars, the margin is inevitably small. Still, the 10 least affordable schools earned an average of 4.35 out of 5 stars, versus the most affordable schools’ 4.5-out-of-5 star average.
Out of state, out of mind?
In-state tuition generally tends to be less expensive than out-of-state tuition, but tuition costs in a particular state might be better depending on where you call home.
For example, the University of Phoenix in Arizona offers out-of-state tuition for just $9,552 — the most affordable option in Student Loan Hero’s out-of-state rankings — but staying in-state to attend Southern Illinois University Edwardsville will cost Illinoisans $12,219 each year.
However, Illinois does offer several affordable and LGBTQ-friendly options for out-of-state applicants, with three schools from the Prairie State ranked in the top 10 for cheapest out-of-state costs.
|Top 10 most affordable LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities by out-of-state tuition|
|Rank||Institution||Campus Pride Index Score||Out-of-state tuition|
|1||University of Phoenix||4||$9,552|
|2||Southern Illinois University Edwardsville||4||$12,219|
|3||SUNY Westchester Community College||4||$12,226|
|4||Salt Lake Community College||4||$12,460|
|5||Eastern Michigan University||5||$13,758|
|6||University of Nebraska at Kearney||5||$13,854|
|7||Eastern Illinois University||4||$14,269|
|8||Northern Illinois University||4||$14,610|
|9||University of Maine at Machias||5||$15,116|
|10||Kutztown University of Pennsylvania||4||$15,166|
The price of pride: ‘I felt that I needed to win people over’
While financial struggles can affect any college student no matter their gender or sexual identity, LGBTQ students might be more susceptible to financial turmoil, especially if they find themselves on a campus that doesn’t support their social and emotional needs.
LGBTQ personal finance expert Kerrie Roberts, a content manager at Experian, says that going through college without a solid LGBTQ community may have contributed to some of his early financial mistakes.
“I was already in this mindset of wanting people to like me for who I am, so I felt that I needed to win people over with money or by spending,” he says.
Roberts, who attended California State University, Fullerton, says being unsure about how his gay identity would be accepted led to some regrettable money habits.
“It actually got me into a crazy situation debt-wise,” he says. “And just because I was trying to make sure that I’m keeping these close friends when I unveil my true self.”
Make sure to look at the big picture to find the best college for you
Every individual needs to prioritize college factors differently, but understanding how these factors can impact each other can help find the perfect fit. A college education is an investment, both in terms of finances and personal development.
When choosing a college, it’s important to consider how well one will thrive socially and academically, because of the financial implications that can come should that student start at a school and then need or want to transfer or drop out.
Finding a community and a sense of belonging early on may help bolster students’ financial foundations by allowing them to avoid costly mistakes made while trying to find acceptance.
“Even if something was a little bit more expensive, if it had that presence and if it was in an area that I knew was more accepting of the gay community, I probably would have selected it over anything else,” Roberts says.
No matter where your priorities stand, the best college is the one that works for you.