Men will be allowed to enroll in Notre Dame of Maryland University’s traditional undergraduate programs starting next fall for the first time since the private Catholic school for women was established in Baltimore more than a century ago, the institution announced Tuesday.
The move comes nearly a year after the school’s board of trustees formed a task force to review enrollment trends at women’s colleges and concluded that the institution must cast a wider net and attract new types of applicants to stay afloat.
“[T]o flourish for years to come, we needed to expand our mission,” Patricia McLaughlin, an alumna and the chair of the board, said in a statement. Her fellow board members all agree. The proposal to go coed won unanimous support among the board’s more than two dozen members when they voted Monday.
Inviting men into Notre Dame’s undergraduate classrooms will reshape the campus, but this is not the first time male students will be part of the university. In 1975, the school became the nation’s second college to establish a weekend program for adult undergraduate students. Men and women were both permitted to enroll.
The school cited three main reasons for this latest change in enrollment policy: Notre Dame’s history of adapting its offerings to meet community need, the chance to appeal to applicants seeking to study on a coed campus and the support the school received from its foundresses, the School Sisters of Notre Dame.
University President Marylou Yam said in a statement that the move will position Notre Dame to “deliver on its mission to advance inclusive and transformational education to more women and men and to equip them to realize their goal of attaining a college degree.”
There were 230 women’s colleges nationally in 1960; more recently, there were fewer than 50 of them, according to the Women’s College Coalition. Demand for single-sex collegiate education has nearly evaporated in the U.S. Fewer than 2% of female freshmen enroll in private women’s colleges and universities, Notre Dame found.