ELMHURST — Elmhurst College in suburban Chicago has become the first in the country to ask students directly on admissions applications about their gender identity and sexual orientation.

The application asks: “Would you consider yourself to be a member of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) community?’’

Students who answer “yes’’ may be eligible for a scholarship that will pay up to a third of tuition, said Gary Rold, the college’s dead of admissions. The information also will help officials direct incoming students to services and groups that could help them on campus, Rold added.

“Increasing diversity is part of our mission statement,’’ Rold told the Chicago Sun-Times (http://bit.ly/pwjgli ). “This is simply closing the loop, in many ways, of another group who has a very strong identity. It may not be race and religion, but it’s an important part of who they are.’’

The question will appear on applications for students hoping to start in the fall of 2012. Like questions about race and religion, answering is optional and will not affect admissions decisions.

Elmhurst College is a private, liberal arts college that has 3,300 undergraduate students. It is affiliated with the United Church of Christ.

“It is kind of a pleasant surprise that Elmhurst College in Illinois is the first campus to ask an identity question,’’ said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride, a national nonprofit group. “Some of the leaders in college admissions have done similar stuff but never asked the question.’’

 

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