Cedar Crest College newspaper since 1923
by Gabrielle Johnson
Wilson College, one of the few women’s colleges in the U.S., has made the switch to be coed this year due to their failure to raise enrollment rates. Although Cedar Crest College has also had low enrollment in recent years, many students are resistant to making the change to coed.
The board of trustees at Wilson College, a small school in Chambersburg, Pa., made the choice at the beginning of 2013 in the hopes that they could double their rate of enrollment by 2020. Despite protests from alumnae and students, the college has chosen to accept male commuters immediately and plans on creating residential areas for male students by the fall 2014 semester.
There are about 40-45 women’s colleges in the United States, depending on the criteria used, which is a far cry from the 200 that existed in the 1950’s. While some assume societal changes are to blame for a fading interest in women’s colleges, others point the finger in another direction.
Advertising is an important factor, and many students and alumnae at Wilson College believe the college did not put much effort into recruiting new students. They cited schools like Bryn Mawr College and Barnard College as examples of women’s colleges that are still very successful today.
Cedar Crest has gone through similar problems in the past few years, struggling to boost enrollment and make itself stand out to applicants. While the college has been active in creating solutions to these problems, some students still worry about the possibility of the school letting go of its “all women” title.
Rumors that Cedar Crest would combine with Muhlenberg College or become coed ran rampant after the college cut several academic programs last year. The college answered both of these rumors, saying that neither was likely to happen anytime in the future.
Molly Koonz, a junior secondary education and English double major, agrees with the stance the school has taken.
“I think that Cedar Crest being an all-women’s college is one of its biggest strengths,” Koonz says. “The goals of the college are very focused on empowering women. We would lose our identity as a college if we went coed.”
Many of those who spoke out against Wilson College’s decision cited similar opinions, the majority worried that a coed school would quickly lose its promise of a leadership-centered education for women. Those in favor of the changes, on the other hand, were quick to mention the financial benefits of a coed institution, which typically have higher enrollment and higher profit from tuition.
Denise Castillo, a senior psychology and criminal justice double major, can see the benefits in Wilson College’s choice to go coed.
“The colleges do what they need to do to survive, women’s colleges especially,” said Castillo, referencing the money concerns that come with being a women’s college with low enrollment rates.
Castillo understands that colleges must do what they can to make a profit, even if it means sacrificing a part of their identity. Castillo does not believe, however, that this will ever be the case at Cedar Crest.
“There are so many people saying ‘no’ to it that I doubt it will happen. I feel like Cedar Crest has too much pride to even seriously think of it,” Castillo said.
Pride in the power of women-focused education may keep Cedar Crest afloat for now, but with the future of all women’s colleges constantly in question, it may take a bit more than pride to remain successful. Wilson College is not the first to become coed, and it certainly will not be the last.