COLUMBIA, S.C. (courtesy converse.edu, postandcourier.com, and wistv.com) — SCICU’s two single-gender member institutions, Columbia College and Converse College, will make history fall semester 2021 with the addition of co-ed residential undergraduate program options.
Columbia College President Carol Moore and Converse College president Krista Newkirk both cite research indicating declining admissions interest in women-only institutions.
“Fewer than two percent of female, college-bound high school students will even consider a single-gender college,” said Converse College President Krista Newkirk. “We see the addition of a co-educational undergraduate residential component as a strategy not to just recruit men, but to reach more women who otherwise would not consider Converse.”
In broader terms, a significant decline in the number of high school graduates beginning in 2025 provides additional reason for Columbia and Converse to add co-ed undergraduate admissions. Studies from 15 single-gender colleges who added a co-ed component showed a two-year average enrollment growth of 74 percent and a four-year average growth of 86 percent for incoming classes.
While Columbia and Converse are both embracing co-ed undergraduate admissions, both indicate expectations of maintaining women-only programs.
“Our recommendation to the Board was presented with guidance to preserve and maintain a women’s leadership component at Converse,” said Laura Chappell Bauknight, ‘87 alumna and Converse College Trustee. Bauknight led the Converse Ad Hoc committee as they closely examined other former women’s colleges that have implemented a co-educational structure. Committee members visited select college campuses that have made similar transitions, and reviewed input and feedback from alumnae, faculty, staff, students and friends of Converse.
“We are excited about the possibility of making Columbia College a place that can accommodate all students in the future,” said Columbia College Board Chair Toby Goodlett. “With our rich history, our quest is to always provide learning opportunities that prepare students for a successful future.”
Founded in 1854, Columbia College has admitted men for night classes and graduate programs since 1947. The student body was 79 percent women in fall 2018, with 272 men enrolled in evening, online and graduate degree courses at that same time.
“Converse made history when we first opened our doors. We made history, when in the face of skyrocketing higher-education costs, we reset our tuition, reducing it by 43 percent. We make history again as we announce that Converse is opening its doors to all academically-qualified students who strive to be exceptional,” stated Converse President Krista L. Newkirk.