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Understanding Change from Women-only to Coeducation: A Case Study of Two Former Catholic Women's Colleges Open Access

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This case study explored the process of institutional change at two colleges that transitioned from women-only to coeducation. Framed by the resource dependence and contingency theories this case study addressed three questions: What are the key contributing factors in women's colleges in transforming to coeducation? Who was involved and who was not involved in the decision to change from women-only to coeducation? What significant institutional changes resulted from the admission of men? Through this inquiry interview data, archival data and institutional research were collected and analyzed. The research explored key factors that led to coeducation, including economic weakness, financial health, demographic shifts, and societal and cultural changes. The research also examined the decision-making process. This included identifying the decision-makers, as well as those with no voice in the process. Finally, this inquiry traced the impact of the decision at each institution. Data were compared and contrasted for the pre- and post-transformation of these two institutions and the theoretical framework of the resource dependence and contingency was applied. Through data analyses key factors that led each institution to transform were identified as economic weakness, financial uncertainty, demographic shifts, cultural, and societal changes. These factors were also identified in the literature and align with this study's theoretical framework. The central decision-maker was identified in both cases as the president of the college. It was determined through data analyses that the decision-making process involved varying levels of participation by other constituencies including faculty and members of the founding religious community. Finally, the data revealed changes resulting from the admission of men including increased enrollments, net tuition revenue, and endowment funds. Specifically the colleges saw an increase in enrollments between 79% and 83%, an increase in net tuition revenue between 67% and 69%, and an increase in endowment funds of 99% for both institutions. Data from each case also reveal that the admission of men resulted in the expansion of residential life, athletics, and academic programs at both institutions.

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