- Two all-women's institutions announced significant changes this week, with Spelman College declaring that it would accept transgender female students, opening its doors to all who "self-identify as women," according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. And Sweet Briar College shared intentions to overhaul its curriculum, calendar, and pricing model to become a 21st century institution that offers women leadership skills, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education.
- Spelman's move is part of a greater emphasis in the industry to better serve the needs of an evolved student constituency. Since 2014, at least eight all-women's institutions have decided to accept transgender students, according to the AJC.
- Sweet Briar's focus on leadership is part of a trend of smaller colleges making a similar shift — for instance, Agnes Scott College and Wilson College, reports the Chronicle. The institution's new model focuses on building up an existing engineering program, using the calendar to emphasize internships, and implementing a tuition rest.
The landscape of higher education is changing, and so are the students. In fact, data from an eCampus News report shows that as early as the 2011-12 academic year, about 74% of all undergraduates enrolled possessed at least one characteristic of a nontraditional student, signified by qualities like working full-time, being an older student, and being a caregiver. And more students from underserved populations are being given the opportunity to attend college, which has led to campuses dealing with student bodies that are much more racially, socioeconomically, and gender diverse than in the past.
This means that as businesses, institutions are going to have to adapt to stay ahead — with even small, niche colleges and universities being no exception. Sweet Briar's shift came on the heel's of the institution's financial woes, but Spelman, has been traditionally financially strong – a reality that reflects how all players in the industry are starting to see how important re-examining mission is, in order to adequately meet the needs of their students (and consumers) before it's too late.