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Mills a big part in the tradition of women’s colleges

This month, the governing boards of Randolph-Macon Women’s College (Lynchburg, VA) and Regis College (Boston, MA) announced their sad decisions to become co-educational institutions in 2007.

Randolph-Macon was a single sex undergraduate college for 115 years; Regis was Boston’s only remaining Catholic women’s college, having been a single sex institution for 80 years. Representatives from both colleges expressed their hope for achieving enrollment increases and financial stability as a result of going co-ed, while continuing their commitments to the original mission.

In 1990, Mills came close to walking the same path as these colleges and reversed the decision to go co-ed following major protests.
Ever since, we have increased enrollment, expanded opportunities for professional graduate education linked to our undergraduate, liberal arts core, have broken previous fundraising records, accelerated our academic achievements and earned national preeminence among higher educational institutions nationwide. This extraordinary momentum is integral to our unwavering dedication to women’s education and advancement. And yes, we are fiscally strong with a significant endowment of over $200 million and consistent enrollment increases in recent years, in both the undergraduate and graduate student populations.

In light of the Randolph-Macon and Regis decisions, and the decreasing number of women’s colleges nationwide-from approximately 300 in the 1960s to approximately 60 today-it is vital to understand the compelling case for women’s colleges and why Mills continues to thrive as a women’s liberal arts college and a women-centered graduate and professional higher education institution.

Women’s colleges excel at preparing women for lifelong achievement by offering advanced curricula and pedagogy, an inclusive environment, accessible female role models and mentors and plentiful leadership opportunities.

This is why so many congresswomen and other female leaders are women’s college graduates. Nancy Pelosi (Trinity), Hillary Clinton (Wellesley) and our own Barbara Lee (Mills) are just a few of the 20 percent of women in Congress who are graduates of women’s colleges. According to the Women’s College Coalition, 33 percent of the women on Fortune 1000 boards and 36 percent of the highest paid women officers of those companies are graduates of women’s colleges.

A recent survey by the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research (National Survey of Student Engagement, July 11, 2006) confirmed that first-year students and seniors at women’s colleges perceive greater support for success than their peers at co-ed institutions and gain more from their college experience compared with women at co-ed institutions.

The survey also revealed that women’s colleges foster an environment “that fuels women’s understanding of self and others, a willingness to work with others and the development of skills associated with career success and leadership.”

We also encourage participation in male-dominated fields such as math, sciences and engineering, have a higher rate of completion of bachelor’s degrees, lead to higher percentages of Ph.D. attainment, have proportionately more women graduates working in Fortune 500 executive positions.

Mills is a rare institution focusing on women’s achievement and leadership within a highly diverse environment. This year, we were nationally recognized for our excellence among liberal arts colleges by The New York Times, Princeton Review, Washington Monthly, U.S. News & World Report, and Black Enterprise.

Our world-class faculty teaches Mills’ core values, (emphasizing leadership, experimentation), creativity and social justice.
Our academic programs are inspired by thoughtful, strategic planning that builds on our strengths, anticipates the future and responds to women’s emerging educational needs.

As more women seek higher education and the benefits it bestows, women’s colleges must take the lead as national models for the effective education of girls and women. Through curriculum, mentoring, leadership and research opportunities and social activism, Mills’ dedication to women’s education is paramount.
We are one of the world’s top women’s colleges, with unwavering commitment to the advancement and support of women’s education, setting the standard for others to emulate.