Co-ed the way to go for Chatham University

Published May 7, 2014 at 3:16 am (Updated May 6, 2014 at 10:59 am)

In a move that shocked some, Chatham University last week voted to go co-ed beginning next year. It is the first time that male students will be admitted to the university’s undergraduate programs in its 145-year history. The Shadyside university’s graduate program is already co-ed – and, 70 percent of Chatham’s enrollment is at the graduate level.

To stay aligned with its original women-only core, Chatham has formed the Women’s Institute. It’s mission is “to help overcome and eradicate the social inequalities facing women, and to advance women’s excellence through education, research, and outreach in areas of modern-day social concerns.”

In the 1960s, there were approximately 200 women’s only colleges in the United States. Today, that number is less than 50. It’s also worth noting that the number of male-only institutions is declining even more rapidly.

Another number that is rapidly declining is Chatham’s student population. The freshman class has declined 50 percent since 2008, and projections state that Chatham could have fewer than 320 students within five years. To put that into perspective, Mt. Lebanon High School’s class of 2014 will graduate about 440 students in a few weeks. And, as of press time, only new 135 students were slated for the fall 2014 semester.

Of the university’s 6,000 alumnae, only 700 signed a petition opposing the resolution.

We applaud Chatham University for changing with the times and doing what it needs to do in order to survive. It would he a shame to see top-notch academic programs, as well as its Eden Hall Campus, which focuses on sustainability and environmental education, go away because a female-only model is outdated in today’s society.

When Chatham was formed in 1869, women had very little access to higher education. That’s obviously not the case in 2014.

“By acting now, we put in place a plan that will ensure the continued evolution, growth and financial strength of the University,” said Jennifer Potter, class of 1966 and chair of Chatham’s Board of Trustees in a press release.

In addition to attracting a whole new demographic with male students, the move is likely to attract female students who otherwise may not have given a women’s-only institution any consideration when seeking out potential universities.

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