Women’s Colleges Lead the Way in Economic Diversity

New data obtained by JBHE from the Department of Education shows that among the nation’s 30 highest-ranked liberal arts colleges, the five women’s colleges in the group lead the other 25 institutions in enrolling low-income students. This is of particular importance to African Americans because, as we report in the previous item, blacks are a disproportionate percentage of Americans in the low-income group.

Nearly 26 percent of all students at Smith College in Massachusetts received federal Pell Grants in 2004. Pell Grants are reserved for students from low-income families. Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts was the only other high-ranking liberal arts college where more than 20 percent of the students qualified for federal Pell Grant awards.

At Barnard College, Wellesley College, and Bryn Mawr College, schools that enroll only women, at least 16 percent of all students received Pell Grants.

All of these women’s colleges have programs encouraging young single mothers to return to school to earn a college education. Some of the colleges have programs for older women to return to college after raising their children. Undoubtedly, many of these women have low incomes and qualify for federal Pell Grants.

Among the coeducational institutions, Oberlin College in Ohio had the highest percentage of low-income students. There, 14.7 percent of all students received Pell Grants.