Are Women’s Colleges Disappearing?

I began my post-high school education at a women’s college in Virginia. That college no longer exists, however not in the way it did nearly two decades ago (ouch, am I really that old now?).

In 2007, Randolph-Macon Woman’s College (RMWC) became Randolph College, opening its doors to men for the first time in its 115-year history.

That change was a sign of the times. Today, there are less than 50 women’s college in the United States. It’s a disappearing educational tradition.

I have mixed feeling about this.

The reason I chose to attend a women’s college still holds true: it fosters a learning environment that supports and encourages women to become strong, confident leaders in their fields and in their communities — the alumni network is a force to be reckoned with.

I remember my first visit to RMWC. I was there for a Prospective’s Weekend, an overnight open house for interested students to get a feel for life on campus. My host was a sophomore student. Her sister, an alumnus, joined us for dinner in the dining hall. I remember being so impressed by her that it sealed my decision about the school.

I wanted to be like her when I graduated from college.

Randolph Macon Woman's College

Ultimately, however, RMWC wasn’t for me. I transferred to a co-ed school the following year — and no, my decision had nothing to do with boys.  It was a combination of events that made that school a very unhappy place for me to be. Much of that was me and the random stuff that happened but part of it was the cattiness that resulted.

Still, I made a great friend in my two semesters at RMWC and some good connections since. The experience as a whole was a defining one and, even though it wasn’t for me, it still saddens me to see this tradition disappear.

The culture is unique and special — and perfect for the right woman.

Did you or someone you know attend a women’s college? Please share that experience in the comments below.

This post was inspired by Bittersweet, a novel by Miranda Beverly-Whittenmore about two college roommates, one crazy summer, and the desire of an outsider to belong. As a member of the From Left to Write book club, I received a copy of the book for free. All opinions expressed are my own. The book link is an Amazon affiliate link.


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  1. I didn’t attend an all women’s college, but it never occurred to me that I should look at one.

  2. I did attend a women’s college – but it was part of a bigger university, so while men couldn’t be enrolled there they could take classes, so it didn’t feel incredibly isolating. I also stayed in an all-female residence during my first year of school (different school – I transferred) and honestly, I had mixed feelings about the all-female element. You mentioned cattiness, which is something that I saw a lot of both at the residence and later at the all-female school – perhaps it was the best choice for some people, but ultimately it wasn’t for me – I finished out my education there, but I took as many courses on the main (co-ed) campus as possible.
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    • That’s interesting. I know of two colleges in Maryland that allowed men to attend classes but not live on campus, one of which was located next to the college I transferred to. Our campuses shared a library.

      Cattiness was a big problem then but, looking back now, I have to wonder how much of my experience was related to my maturity level at the time. I still encounter cattiness among groups of women but I try not to engage in it or let it bother me. Life’s too short for that kind of drama.

      Thank you for commenting!

  3. Samantha says

    Hi Shannon,
    I am a proud ’09 alumna of Wilson College, a women’s college that is in the midst of a turbulent and controversial change. My college experience was much different from some of the other commenters, I loved every second of it. Going to a women’s college instilled me with courage, determination, and a sense of self that I know I could not have gotten at a coed institution. The cattiness that many associate with large groups of young women and sometimes with women’s colleges was never a factor in my experience at Wilson. For me it was just the opposite, a safe haven from cliques and cattiness I dealt with in high school.

    It is undeniable that many women’s colleges are facing financial issues but these institutions still hold value for women today. When I consider my female role models I know it is not sheer coincidence that the majority of them attended women’s colleges. While single sex education is not for everyone I firmly believe that all women should have the opportunity. It breaks my heart to think that women will not be able to enjoy the same educational freedom that I experienced at Wilson and I believe there is still validity in fighting to keep these institutions alive. My alma mater is in the midst of a major change of its founding mission – to educate women – amidst much controversy. You are right that the alumnae network is a force to be reckoned with, because of the will power of my fellow alumnae the injustices that have occurred are now set to be decided in a landmark trial by the PA Department of Education. You can find out more at Thank you for posting on this very important topic!

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