SPARTANBURG, SC (WSPA) – Converse College is holding meetings to discuss ways of expanding enrollment, including adding co-ed undergraduate programs.
Converse is one of the oldest women’s colleges in the United States, having been founded in 1889.
Freshman Libby Stevens says, “it was a shock to hear that, because you never would think in a million years a school that’s always been all women would go co-ed, especially one like converse.”
While undergraduate programs are only for women at this time, Converse does have co-ed graduate and doctoral programs.
In a press release, school leaders said the discussions are part of their 2018-2023 stragegic plan and that there’s an impending 15% decline of high school graduates, and challenges facing higher education.
Converse College President, Krista Newkirk says, “interestingly although it was founded as a women’s institution in it’s original acts of incorporation it does mention the opportunity to be an educational institution for women and men.”
“Seeing the financial situation I can’t say I’m surprised,” said Converse College alumnus Annette Haynie. “I know at one point, Converse did offer men the opportunity to be day students if they were in the music program because there was nothing else in the area. I’m a little sad but I’m not completely disappointed.”
Several town hall meetings were held on campus Tuesday to discuss the plan.
“In the world we’re not going to be just around women so I think for me it’s fine,” said current Converse College Student Aidyn Cantor. “But, I know some people here feel this is a place for women to be themselves and it’s a place where women get opportunities and this place is really accepting so I think people are scared that that’s going to change.”
Freshman Victoria Fulton says, “I don’t really have a personal opinion on it, I think it’s mainly for money with the school, it will just give them more of an audience to talk to.”
The school’s Board of Trustees will be appointing a committee to study options to expand enrollment and a possible name change to Converse University.
“Cultural shifts, population trends, and different expectations for student engagement are prompting more single-gender colleges and universities like Converse to expand enrollment. Currently only 2% of female, college bound high school students will consider a single-gender college,” said Converse College President Krista Newkirk. “Today we began engaging with our students, faculty and staff to get feedback as a strategic recommendation is created for the future.”
Converse said the committee will return a report of their findings to the Board of Trustees before the end of 2019.
President Newkirk says, “I think this will create a robust community, were we educate women on women’s leadership, but we also educate men on the future of women and women’s leadership.”
“I hope it’s successful. I think there’s an opportunity and I’m sure this has not been done without quite a bit of thought,” said Haynie.
The college is asking for input on the potential changes, you can submit your opinion to Converse by clicking here.
Converse College has a total enrollment of 1,450 students — 877 undergraduates and 573 graduate students.