What Matters in College After College

What Matters
112 pages

13 pages

The Women’s Colleges Comparative Alumnae Research Project is organized around key factors identified by education researchers Alexander Astin, Ernest T. Pascarella and Patrick T. Terenzini as critical to educational effectiveness, specifically, those elements of the college environment that contribute to students’ positive outcomes: Interaction between faculty and students; A strong community and peer interactions both inside and outside the classroom; A challenging, active classroom environment. This study assesses lasting effects, from 1970-1997.

The Women’s College Coalition commissioned Hardwick~Day to conduct a research survey assessing alumnae from the classes of 1970 through 1997, comparing the responses of women’s college alumnae with alumnae of public and private colleges and universities. The key messages drawn from the findings focus on the areas in which women’s college alumnae report outcomes that surpass the outcomes of alumnae of public and private institutions; they help make the case for the effectiveness of a women’s college education:

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creates leaders, communicators, and persuaders. Speaking out and speaking up – key components of leadership and civic engagement – are capacities actively developed at women’s colleges. Women’s college alumnae report more in-class experience with making presentations than their peers at other institutions and are more likely to gain leadership experience in student government and campus media.

develops critical skills for life and career. As studies repeatedly underscore the need for critical thinking, global knowledge, intercultural competence, and real-world abilities, women’s colleges surpass all public and private colleges in helping students learn to think analytically, bring social and historical perspective to issues, work as part of a team, write and speak effectively, make sound decisions, gain entry to a career, prepare for career change or advancement, and be politically and socially aware.

enables students to engage with top faculty and resources. Women’s college graduates attribute their success to interaction with “a high quality teaching-oriented faculty.” They report strong benefits from mentoring, small classes and personal interaction with professors. At women’s colleges, all of the resources, from sophisticated research equipment to preeminent athletics facilities to internship and fellowship funding, are focused on and available to women students.

proves its value over a lifetime. Graduating from a women’s college, versus a co-ed public or private college or university, significantly increases a woman’s chances of earning a graduate degree. Women’s college graduates succeed in entering a range of career fields and graduate programs, regardless of their undergraduate major. More than 95 percent of women’s college alumnae believe the financial investment in their education was worthwhile and that the intellectual and personal capacities they gained are still extremely important to them.

There are some areas in which the outcomes reported by women’s college alumnae are less differentiated from those reported by alumnae of public and private institutions; being comparable dispels negative myths about women’s colleges.

John Pryor, Director of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP), recently said, “If you’ve done a good survey, you should have more questions. They will be well-informed questions.” The Hardwick~Day Comparative Alumnae Research Survey is a good survey. The Coalition has more questions and will pursue them in its Research Agenda, the objective of which is to collect, interpret, and disseminate relevant and irrefutable data to describe the distinctive characteristics and contributions of women’s colleges.

The Hardwick~Day research, What Matters in College After College, is grounded in key factors that education researchers, including Astin, Pascarella and Terenzini, have identified as critical to both an effective undergraduate education and greater student satisfaction:

  • Frequent, extensive formal and informal interaction between faculty and students
  • A strong community and peer interactions both inside and outside the classroom
  • A challenging, active classroom environment
  • Participation in such intensive learning experiences as international study, internships, faculty-directed research and independent study
  • Involvement and leadership in extracurricular activities

Unlike many alumnae studies that assess students shortly after graduation, the Hardwick~Day survey of alumnae from the classes of 1970 through 1997 assesses the long-term impact of the college experience on:

  • Satisfaction with the undergraduate experience
  • Career preparation and advancement
  • Broad skill development
  • Personal and professional values and attitudes
  • Community involvement

Download the Communication Strategy for these findings by clicking HERE

For more information, contact Susan E. Lennon, Executive Director of the Women’s College Coalition at susan.lennon@womenscolleges.org