Women 's Impact On The United States

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Since their inception in the 19th century, women’s colleges in the United States have faced significant challenges and undergone a multitude of transformations in their pursuit to educate women (Kratzok, 2010; Thelin, 2004; Turpin, 2010). In recent years, economic hardship has forced many women’s colleges to reexamine their identity and initial purpose, as rising costs and dwindling enrollments have led a majority to co-educate or close their doors entirely (Hursh & Wall, 2011; Kratzok, 2010). The fierce competition for students in today’s higher education climate has hit women’s institutions particularly hard, as once there were over three hundred women’s colleges and only about seventy presently remain (Women’s College Coalition, 2001). Though women make up the majority of undergraduate students (Turpin, 2010), the future of these small, private women’s colleges seems uncertain (Langdon & Giovengo, 2003). However, by examining their contentious historical beginnings to their evolution in the 21st century, one can determine the pivotal role women’s colleges still play in the United States higher education system. The origins of higher education in the United States can be traced all the way back to the colonial era, with the founding of Harvard University in 1636 (Delbanco, 2012; Thelin, 2004). However, it would take another two centuries for women to receive similar opportunities of advanced education. Excluded from attending colleges by statute (Thelin, 2004), women in

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