WEST HARTFORD — A women's college in Connecticut could soon begin enrolling men for the first time in school history.
The president of the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford says she is setting up a task force to consider making the college coed after enrolling only women for 84 years. The school is facing decreasing enrollment, and a budget surplus.
President Rhona Free sent a statement to FOX 61 about the task force:
“With a budget surplus last year and another projected for this year and a high level of energy around our campus, the University of Saint Joseph will evaluate any changes from a position of strength. I am a strong believer in the value of a women’s undergraduate education and will make decisions with the Board about admitting men based on the assessments presented by the task force and we will go fully co-ed only if there is compelling evidence that doing so will enhance the experience of our students, especially undergraduate women.”
The task force will report their findings to the Board of Trustees this spring. If they do decide to accept undergraduate men, those students wouldn't begin classes until 2018.
The idea was met with mixed reaction on campus.
"I think it's extremely empowering to be able to say that every leadership position in this school is filled by women. That is extremely rare compared to other schools that don't offer leadership positions exclusively to women, because you do have that patriarchal dominance that really does play a huge role in today's society. So I think that the fact that we can erase that form the culture of St. Joe's is something that really empowers women and I think it would be extremely unfortunate to take away those opportunities that these women who go here really deserve," said Leeann Waye, a sophomore at St. Joseph's.
Freshman Destiny Cruz said, "They're trying to get more people here, maybe that will work and maybe they should give it a shot."
Small colleges around the country are facing challenges related to growing competition and declining state funding for higher education.
The University of St. Joseph has 747 undergraduates this year, down 58 students since 2012.
The university already accepts men into its graduate programs and adult-learner programs.