The University of Iowa has become the nation’s first public university to include optional questions about sexual orientation and gender identity on its application, reports the Associated Press—a move hailed by advocates hoping to improve the college experience for gays and lesbians.

University officials say the move sends a strong signal that they value the diversity that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students bring to campus. They say that knowing some students’ sexual orientation will allow them to track their enrollment and graduation rates and promote housing, student groups, and programs that might improve their social and academic success.

Iowa’s decision was praised by Campus Pride, an advocacy group that has been lobbying colleges to ask the questions so schools can track the progress of LGBT students. Elmhurst College, a private liberal-arts school in suburban Chicago, became the first—and is still the only other—college to do so last year.

“This is truly historic,” said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride. He said his group was in talks with a number of other universities about making a similar change, and he expects at least one major school that he wouldn’t name to follow suit in the next six months…

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