Women’s colleges tend to be small, often offering liberal arts education and with an emphasis on faculty engagement with students.
There are less than 50 women’s colleges in the United States and their combined enrollment accounts for only about one percent of the estimated 11.5 million women who attended U.S. colleges and universities full- and part-time last year, according to a 2014 Women’s College Coalition report. Despite these numbers, advocates of women’s colleges say the schools are well-equipped to instill ambition and self-confidence in their graduates.
“When I talk to parents about why they should consider women’s colleges, I first talk about leadership, about encouraging women to take risks they might not otherwise take,” says Carmen Twillie Ambar, president of Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and a member of the board of directors of the Women’s College Coalition.
“Women’s colleges are places where young women don’t have to apologize for showing their ambitions or for their academic prowess,” she says. “There’s a deep commitment to women’s education, to helping women achieve at the highest levels in the fields they choose and to encouraging young women to see themselves at the highest levels. Students are not dealing with some of the negative issues that can exist at coed institutions and they can really focus on learning. For many young women, they are a perfect fit.”
Women’s colleges tend to be small, often offering liberal arts education and with an emphasis on faculty engagement with students. They may also admit male students—Ambar’s definition of a women’s college is one that is “predominately female”—and U.S. laws generally prohibit educational institutions from denying admission to anyone based on their gender.
Admission requirements are roughly the same as at other small private colleges, but the overall costs can vary widely. The average tuition and fees (excluding room, board, materials and other expenses) at women’s colleges was about $15,000 (Rs. 10,07,000 approximately) as of 2011, according to a Women’s College Coalition study. Ambar describes Cedar Crest College’s costs of about $42,000 (Rs. 28,21,000 approximately) for tuition, room and board as “about the middle of the range” for women’s colleges. Women’s colleges tend to be racially diverse, according to the Women’s College Coalition, and Ambar estimates that about 130 of Cedar Crest College’s 1,600 students are from overseas.
Steve Fox is a freelance writer, former newspaper publisher and reporter based in Ventura, California.