At one time in the history of U.S. higher education, college was exclusively a male domain. Women sometimes attended “female academies” for the purpose of elevating their knowledge and skill as the future wives of enterprising men and mothers of successful offspring to-be. Then came the era of single-sex colleges, and the first co-educational colleges, such as Antioch College in Ohio, where women were initially welcomed as a cadre of helpmates who could assist male students with their laundry. Finally came more genuinely co-educational colleges, ultimately coexisting with an increasingly dwindling number of single sex institutions.
What Are Some Single-Sex Colleges?
Today there are approximately fifty-one single sex colleges in the U.S., with far more of the female-only variety persisting (albeit sometimes struggling), than the male variety. The website http://www.Women’sColleges.org lists some forty-seven women colleges that are still operational (many have closed), including Bryn Mawr, Mt. Holyoke, and Smith of PA; Spelman of GA (a Historically Black College); Stephens of MO; The Women’s College of the University of Denver; and Mills of CA. The four extant men’s colleges are Hampden-Sydney, of VA; Wabash in IN; Morehouse of GA (another HBC); and Deep Springs in CA.
Advantages of single-sex colleges
Arguments in favor of single sex education include a belief, supported with outcomes research, that a single-sex environment eliminates much distraction from an academic course of study, allowing both males and females to perform at a higher level. The evidence in support of women’s colleges is even broader, including findings that women’s college grads have more successful careers, earn more money, and are overall happier; and outcomes suggesting that women’s colleges produce graduates with higher self-esteem than female grads from coed institutions.
It is not the case that students at single-sex institutions are lacking in opposite sex companionship should they desire it — in fact, just the opposite is often true. Stephens College is just blocks from the campus of the University of Missouri in Columbia, and Bryn Mawr students can take courses and participate in clubs and activities on the campuses of Swarthmore, Haverford, and Penn.
Consider including single-sex institutions in your college search. You may be surprised at what you discover, and very glad you did!
The photo at the top of this article is of a pet-friendly room in a dorm at Stephens College — one of the few colleges in the nation allowing larger pets!