Bill For Women's Colleges
Updated: Jan 3, 2022
Yesterday in Washington, D.C. the House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) passed its annual appropriations bill. With the leadership of Los Angeles Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, report language was included to bolster the remaining women’s colleges in America. This is the first time that women’s colleges have been noted in such a way in proposed Federal legislation. Roybal-Allard is Vice Chair of the House Subcommittee on LHHS.
The Committee recognized the long-time role the nation's women's colleges and universities play in advancing postsecondary diversity and inclusion for underserved populations while creating unique educational opportunities to empower women. They stated its concern with the financial stability and institutional well-being of women’s colleges, especially post-COVID-19. Importantly, the Committee directed the Department of Education to detail challenges women’s colleges and universities face and recommend how federal resources may be allocated to ensure their resilience.
“We are deeply grateful for the significant leadership of Congresswoman Roybal-Allard. She is a long-time champion of women’s advancement and empowerment. America’s Women’s Colleges are fortunate that she was willing to help us, especially today, as we navigate through this most tumultuous time to a position of strength. We also thank the members of the Subcommittee whose support will help pave a transformative future for our institutions and the 42,000 women we serve annually,” said Dr. Ann McElaney-Johnson, Board Chair of the Women’s College Coalition and president of Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles.
This Congressional action comes amid the backdrop of a dramatic increase in women leaving post-secondary studies and the workforce. Women’s colleges and universities have always faced state and federal underfunding, despite educating historically underserved populations. Eighty percent of women’s college students receive financial aid, 48% are eligible for Pell grants and nearly half are students of color.
“Women’s colleges and universities were founded to provide women with the education and experiences that they would not otherwise have been able to access,” said Labor-HHS Subcommittee Vice Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40). “Today, these institutions hold an important key to our future and maintain their important role in higher education. I am grateful that the Department of Education will provide information and recommendations to protect these institutions.”
Fifty years ago, 230 women’s colleges and universities thrived across the United States; today, fewer than 40 remain. With the pandemic, two more women’s colleges have closed their doors as degree granting institutions. This spring, Judson College, America’s fifth oldest women’s college, announced it will close its doors. Also, this year Mills College announced it would shift away from being an independent degree-granting college for women and is now in talks about an alliance with Northeastern University.
“Our communities and our nation can't afford to lose this vital and unique asset for incubating women leaders – women’s colleges. Today’s action in Congress is an important first step to help women bounce back from the She-session and chart a new course for the education and advancement of women and girls in our nation,” said McElaney-Johnson.