For Women Only? More Go Coed

  • Share
  • Read Later
When the first U.S. women's colleges were founded in the mid-1800s, their mission was clear: to teach females, who were largely excluded from higher education. And even as more institutions opened their doors to both genders, studies found that many women learned more in a female-only environment, where, among other benefits, there were no men to dominate classroom discussions. But what's to become of women's colleges now, as a new generation of female students has confidently outperformed males since elementary school and become the majority at most mainstream colleges and universities?

Proponents of women's colleges say they still serve a need for some students, but it seems that they are declining in popularity. According to this year's College Board survey, just 4% of young women expressed interest in applying to all-female schools — the lowest percentage in 12 years. Faced with fewer women applicants, Emmanuel College in Boston and Notre Dame College of Ohio in Cleveland this fall announced they would begin admitting men in 2001. Since 1997, four other women's colleges have gone coeducational. And in July, Trinity College in Burlington, Vt., announced it would close. While the most prestigious schools, such as Barnard, Mount Holyoke and Wellesley, remain strong, women-only colleges have declined to 64 from 88 in 1989.

Cara Vazquez, 17, a high school senior in Southampton, N.Y., thinks attending a women's college "would be unnatural after being in a coed environment my whole life." But Ann Donick, a guidance counselor at Vazquez's school, believes some women still achieve more at an all-female college, where "their intelligence and value are never questioned, which is still not always the