- Beginning in the fall of 2018, the University of Saint Joseph will admit full-time undergraduate male students in an attempt to expand the school’s undergraduate programs, according to Inside Higher Ed. School officials said they hope the move will lead to a more active student life.
- The school first considered the change in November 2016, with a dozen task groups considering the impact the decision could have on the school’s mission, its academic programs and student life. President Rhona Lee said meetings with staff, students, and alumni led her to believe that it was better to create an environment reflecting the “real world.”
- When the decision was announced, some criticized the move, saying the school had managed to create a unique learning environment for its female students. One individual who works at the school as an adjunct expressed concern that the move would turn the university into “just another college.”
Schools serving narrow educational missions are increasingly in danger of closure, as budgets tighten and the body of students from which institutions can recruit shrinks. According to the Women’s College Coalition, there were more than 200 women’s colleges in the country in the 1960s, but there are now fewer than 50. Students, faculty and alumni, rallied to the support of Sweet Briar University after its president announced an imminent closure. The state of Virginia intervened to stop the closure, and it was eventually announced the school would remain open. But the scenario played out completely differently for St. Paul's College, the small Virginia HBCU which closed after 125 years in operation in 2013.
A lengthy tenure for college presidents is no longer immediately assured, a school's Boards of Trustees are not as willing to offer unequivocal support. Recent crises have also illustrated that presidents can be forced to resign based on student outcry and pressure. If smaller colleges are considering whether it is financially feasible to continue without broadening their mission, administrators must keep in mind that they are more accountable to their staff, students and graduates than in previous times. Alumni and faculty support is critical; Sweet Briar alumni, for example, raised more than $10 million in the year following its attempted closure. And in Maryland, it has been primarily HBCU alumni — not administrators — who have been critical to efforts to bring the state to task over historic underfunding and program duplication which has negatively impacted their alma maters.