The University of New Mexico’s online college has been ranked as one of the most affordable and LGBTQ-friendly universities in the nation.

OnlineU is a website that annually publishes many lists of the most affordable online U.S colleges. Their lists differ based on various demographic traits. This year, UNM rank 11th on their list of most affordable LGBTQ-friendly online colleges.

The Guide to Online Schools is a similar website and UNM made one of their lists as well.

Their record of the 2018 best LGBTQ-friendly online schools includes 60 universities, including UNM. Their website states that to make this list, a school must offer at least 15 online degree programs and earn a score of three stars or more on the Campus Pride Index.

Dr. Lawrence Roybal is the interim vice president for equity and inclusion at UNM. He was felt pride about the university finding its way on these two lists.

“We are extremely proud that UNM is highlighted for constantly striving to improve the academic experience and the quality of campus life as we promote an inclusive campus climate through our ongoing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” Roybal said.

Roybal continued by mentioning how honored the entire LGBTQ Resource Center is and how making these lists means recognition for the hard work the UNM LGBTQ community has done to inspire change.

Roybal isn’t the only employee in the division who feels this way.

Lorena Blanco-Silva is the diversity programs director and she has worked at UNM since 2010. Before that, she received her master’s degree in Public Administration here. Blanco-Silva explained what these rankings require and how we made them.

“The rankings are based on the Campus Pride Index, which grades schools based on their tools and resources dedicated to supporting LGBTQ-friendly policies, programs and practices,” she said.

Silva said their five-star scoring system also looks at breakdowns based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. In addition, she pointed towards two policies the division has finalized that helped contribute to UNM’s inclusion on these lists: The Universal Restroom Initiative and the Preferred/Affirmed First Name Initiative.

The former was signed into effect in 2016 and establishes guidelines for the design of universal restrooms. As the name suggests, these restrooms are open to anyone and everyone.

The latter policy saw its inception January of this year, and Silva explained it in great detail.

“This policy will make it easier for students, faculty and staff to use their preferred first name in official capacities on-campus,” she said.

Silva continued by stating UNM recognizes that students may prefer to use their middle names or a different name altogether rather than their legal ones.

It’s not just students benefiting from this policy. Elisha Allen is the director of academic technologies at UNM, and before this policy was passed, he had to go by his first name of Henry.

Allen is a UNM graduate who earned his BA in Environmental Design and MBA from Anderson School of Management. He designed UNM’s very first online class in 1997.

Speaking on these earned ranks, Allen said that “UNM has a strong commitment towards the LGBTQ community.”

He added that part of his job includes making sure that the resources available to on-campus students are available to online students. During the spring semester of 2018, Allen said there were 9,425 online students.

Derek Olsen is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted by email at or on Twitter @Derek_Olsen2117.