Women's Colleges Recognized as Economically Diverse

Posted By Marilyn Hammond - 09/11/2014

Women’s colleges were in the news when two, Smith College (ranked #4) and Saint Mary’s College (ranked #8) were recognized by the New York Times as some of the most economically diverse top colleges in the country.  They were joined by Barnard, Wellesley and Bryn Mawr in the top fifty.

Women’s colleges have educated a higher percentage of low-income, racially diverse and first-generation students than traditional co-ed colleges and universities, public or private, for more than a decade.

Compared to women at other institutions, women’s college attendees are more likely than women at co-ed colleges and universities to report that their mothers and fathers did not attend college, according to a Women's College Coalition study completed in 2013. They also have, on average, lower family incomes, with the median family income for women’s college students being approximately $84,000, compared to $126,000 for women attending coeducational private universities.

Not only do women’s colleges enroll a higher percentage of lower income and first-generation students, they also do an excellent job of helping these students succeed. Women’s college alumnae are more likely to earn a graduate degree (51 percent) than women from co-ed liberal arts colleges (33 percent) or flagship public universities (27 percent). 

More than one in three (37.2 percent) women’s college students surveyed plan to earn a master’s degree as their highest degree, and more than one in four (27.3 percent) plan to earn a Ph.D. or Ed.D., a figure higher than for students at co-ed colleges and universities. Related to this, women’s college attendees are the most likely to report that preparing for graduate or professional school was a very important reason for going to college (72.5 percent).