Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College says, in a “defining moment” in its 175-year history, the school is becoming fully co-educational. The college says it will immediately begin accepting applications for men as commuter students, with plans to allow men as residential students next year. President Dottie King says the declining number of students who will consider a single-gender educational experience “hinders its relevance in today's world.” The school's board of trustees unanimously approved the move at a meeting earlier this month, after a year of consideration.

The college says enrollment is “central” to the decision, citing research suggesting that less than two percent of women will consider a single-gender institution.

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods says there were 230 women's colleges in the United States in 1960, and 52 have since closed. It adds more than 60 others have either merged with other schools or become co-educational. The school anticipates an enrollment increase as a result of the move. It currently reports about 1,700 students.

King says she will put together a team of alumni, faculty, staff, students and board members to help in the transition.

Denise Wilkinson, who is General Superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, says the organization supports the decision, but adds, “Our hearts go out to those who will find this change difficult.”

You can read Wilkinson's full statement by clicking here.

The school says men have taken classes there since 1984 in graduate and undergraduate distance programs. They have also been allowed to be commuter students in traditional programs, but have not been eligible for an undergraduate degree.

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College was founded in 1840.

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