Wilson College to admit traditional-age men

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot

CHAMBERSBURG — As part of its framework for the future, Wilson College will begin to admit traditional-age male students.

The Wilson College Board of Trustees Sunday approved a bold series of measures aimed at rejuvenating the college by significantly increasing enrollment, strengthening programs and facilities, addressing issues of educational cost and value, and ensuring financial sustainability in the future.

Under the action approved by the board, Wilson — which has a residential college for women that allows men age 22 and older to attend as commuter students — will begin enrolling traditional-age male students as commuters in fall 2013. The college will admit male residential students in fall 2014.

Currently, men make up 11.7 percent of Wilson's overall enrollment.

The move came up against opposition by alumnae when it was proposed last year. Consideration by the Wilson board was posposed until Sunday.

Meeting in a special session, the board approved a set of recommendations from Wilson President Barbara K. Mistick, which include reducing tuition and establishing an innovative student loan buyback program; strengthening existing majors and adding a number of new academic programs, including the exploration of several in the health sciences; making facilities and infrastructure improvements; and expanding coeducation across all programs.

"The Wilson College Board of Trustees has acted to ensure the financial well-being of the institution," said John Gibb, chair of the board of trustees. "Our decision will enable the college to thrive. There is much work to do, but I am confident that with the transformational measures approved today, we have taken an important step toward Wilson's fiscal sustainability and ensuring a vibrant academic institution."

The college is planning to create an implementation committee that will include student, faculty, staff and alumnae representation. While work will begin on all of the recommendations, subcommittees will initially focus on the affordability of a Wilson education, retention, coeducation, marketing and academic programs. The committee's work on coeducation will look at preserving and enhancing Wilson's culture and traditions, including women-centered education.

Mistick's proposal was based on strategic initiatives from the Commission on Shaping the Future of Wilson College — a 23-member panel made up of faculty, students, alumnae, staff and trustees. The commission, authorized by the board of trustees in October 2011, was charged with developing recommendations to increase enrollments and create transformative change for the future of the college.

The measures approved today by the trustees are based on five broad objectives:

• Strengthening the student learning experience

• Providing distinctive, innovative programs

• Strengthening the college's long-term financial stability

• Increasing the college's visibility and reputation

• Enhancing campus facilities

"I applaud the board for its bold actions in the best interests of Wilson College," Mistick said. "We've known from the start that there would be no single solution to transform the college and to achieve financial sustainability — that it would take a comprehensive plan to assure success. I am confident that this plan is the right mix of initiatives to help Wilson grow and remain a vibrant institution that will not only provide students with a high-quality education, but also benefit the entire community."

More details about the initiatives will be announced in the coming weeks.

Named for its chief benefactor, Sarah Wilson, Wilson College was founded in 1869 as a liberal arts college for women. Wilson has added a number of programs, including an adult degree program in 1982 that allowed men to attend, and more recently, graduate degree programs in education and the humanities in an attempt to generate increased enrollments.