For the first time in nearly 170 years, Midway University will start accepting men as full-time undergraduates, the Board of Trustees has decided in a step aimed at keeping the small Woodford County school open.
Men can apply as full-time undergraduates starting this fall; they can apply to live in residence halls starting in spring 2017. Men are currently accepted into online and graduate programs.
“Today is yet another historic moment in the life of an institution that has always transformed itself to remain relevant,” President John Marsden said in a news release Monday. “Our founding mission was to provide young women with access to education at a time when education was mainly available to men. We have fulfilled that mission for 169 years and this decision will ensure that we continue to do so.”
Marsden said the decision ultimately came down to viability for Midway’s continued existence. The enrollment last fall was 1,042 students, with just a quarter of those enrolled in the Women’s College, and less than 200 living on campus.
“We see this as an opportunity to overcome existing challenges we have faced with tight budgets, decreased interest in single-sex education, and a national trend in declining enrollments,” Marsden said. “We see this change as strengthening our historic mission to educate women by broadening our reach to that 98 percent of young women who would never consider a women’s college.”
The Midway Board of Trustees voted unanimously to accept men.
“We made this decision after careful thought and thorough discussion,” said Donna Moore Campbell, chairwoman of the board. “We believe this is the best and most prudent decision to ensure the viability of the institution so that we continue to honor our original mission to educate women and serve all students — male and female — for years to come.”
Midway officials will have to notify all their accrediting bodies of the change. Men will be able to join athletics programs in 2017, but there are no plans to build either more dorms or athletic fields. The school will continue with scholarships, reunions and speaker series that are dedicated to women.
“We understand that this change will not come without some disappointment among some of our alums and others outside the university,” said Marsden. “However, we cannot continue to preserve something that is unsustainable merely for nostalgic purposes.”