Women’s college in Connecticut considers enrolling men

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A women’s college in Connecticut that has been seeing a decline in enrollment is reviewing whether to admit men, possibly reversing an 84-year tradition at the University of St. Joseph.

The university’s president is setting up a task force this month to consider making the college coed. The Board of Trustees is likely to review its assessment at a meeting in May.

A slight increase in the number of undergraduates could create a more vibrant campus life and having men on campus could strengthen certain programs, such as business and actuarial studies, President Rhona Free told the Hartford Courant.

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“If we think it will change the tenor of the campus in a positive way for our women, we’ll do it,” Free said. “If the conclusion is that it might not have that impact, we won’t.”

The university in West Hartford has 747 undergraduate students, down 58 students since 2012. The university also hosts men on campus for its Program for Adult Learners and its graduate school programs.

Free said more stringent entry requirements contributed to a smaller-than-expected first-year class. She said the college is in a strong position, noting a 2.6 percent operating surplus last year and an expected surplus of 1.7 percent this year.

Small colleges around the country are facing challenges related to growing competition and declining state funding for higher education.

A first-year student at St. Joseph’s, Leah Verrillo, said she chose the school in part because of its all-women atmosphere.

“We don’t really have to compete with guys to get our opinions in,” she said. “In high school that was something you really had to work for. The guys kind of spoke over us. I really like that we don’t have to do that.”

Amaria Sharon, another first-year student, said she chose St. Joseph’s for its pre-medical program, not because it was single-sex. She said going coed would only add diversity to the school.

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“We have diversity in the women here, and I think adding another gender in the classroom would be beneficial,” she said.

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