Bringing new meaning to "student orientation," Washington community and technical colleges will start asking students their sexual orientation and gender identity when students register for classes this year.
Laura McDowell, spokeswoman for Washington State Board of Community & Technical Colleges, said it was students who proposed the colleges start tracking the data.
"The idea was that colleges could better serve this population of students if they could actually help identify how many people in the school are in that category, and track their academic success, and see whether they needed any sort of polices or programs that would help them succeed in schools," McDowell said.
Under the sexual orientation category, students can identify as bisexual, gay, lesbian, queer, or straight/heterosexual.
For gender identity, students can select from feminine, masculine, androgynous, gender-neutral, or transgender.
"Other" or "prefer not to answer" are also options in both categories.
McDowell said colleges will keep students' answers confidential, as they do other personal information.
She said the state board believes Washington state will be the first system of community and technical colleges in the nation to track students' sexual orientation and gender identity.
Most colleges will add the questions to fall quarter registration forms, and the rest have agreed to do so by the end of the school year, McDowell said.