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More than Half of Transgender Students in Higher Education Report Poor Mental Health

Author: The Williams Institute
Published: 30th Apr 2022 - Updated: 4th Jun 2022
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Additional References: Transgender News Publications

Summary: Many transgender students face bullying, harassment, assault, and unfair treatment.


Transgender people have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from the sex that they were assigned at birth. Some transgender people who desire medical assistance to transition from one sex to another identify as transsexual. Transgender, often shortened as trans, is also an umbrella term; in addition to including people whose gender identity is the opposite of their assigned sex (trans men and trans women), it may also include people who are non-binary or genderqueer.

Main Document

A new study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law conducted in collaboration with the Point Foundation, the nation's largest LGBTQ scholarship fund, finds there are an estimated 218,000 known transgender students ages 18 to 40 in the U.S. More than half (55%) of transgender people say that their mental health was not good all or most of the time while they were in higher education programs.

More than a third (39%) of transgender people experienced bullying, harassment, or assault while they were enrolled in higher education. And nearly a third (32%) of transgender people reported unfair treatment by teachers, staff, or school administrators.

Using data from the Access to Higher Education Survey, a nationally representative sample of adults ages 18 to 40, researchers examined the school experiences and higher education environments of transgender people in four-year colleges and universities, community colleges, and vocational-technical schools.

Results show that transgender people (26%) were three times more likely than cisgender LGBQ people (9%) to say that lifetime adverse treatment at school impacted their academic success.

"Experiences of discrimination against transgender people are not unique to high school," said lead author Kerith J. Conron, the Blachford-Cooper Distinguished Scholar and Research Director at the Williams Institute. "They also occur in higher education settings, where they can have a profound impact on the mental health and lifelong potential of transgender students."

"It's clear that universities and schools are not doing enough for transgender students," said Jorge Valencia, Executive Director and CEO at Point Foundation. "When transgender people are reporting high levels of poor mental health, in part because of their mistreatment at the hands of staff or faculty, it's time for institutions of higher education to make a change. We are advocating for schools to audit their policies to ensure the protection of LGBTQ students, to ensure LGBTQ people are being listened to and supported by funded programming and centers, among other things."


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This study is part of a series of reports that analyze data from the Access to Higher Education Survey. Previous reports examined the impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQ students and federal student loan debt among LGBTQ people.


The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, a think tank on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, is dedicated to conducting rigorous, independent research with real-world relevance.

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• (APA): The Williams Institute. (2022, April 30). More than Half of Transgender Students in Higher Education Report Poor Mental Health. Retrieved April 12, 2024 from

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