Historic All Girls College Goes Co-Ed

After being an all-girls institution for 125 years, Notre Dame of Maryland University is becoming co-ed, planning to accept male students starting next fall.

By Kari Apted | Published

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After 125 years of being an all-girls college, Notre Dame of Maryland University (NDMU) is becoming co-ed. On Sept. 12, 2022, the Board of Trustees unanimously voted to allow men into the private Catholic university beginning in fall 2023. The decision was based on many factors, including a desire to reach a more diverse pool of eligible students and declining national enrollment in private, nonprofit women’s colleges.

Before making the historic decision, the Board of Trustees formed a task force to examine enrollment trends in all-girls colleges and collect data on undergraduate programs in Maryland and across the nation. Interestingly, Notre Dame has enrolled male students in their adult undergraduate and graduate programs for years. Patricia McLaughlin, chairwoman of the Board of Trustees, applauded the move.

“The board recognized that in order for NDMU to flourish for years to come, we needed to expand our mission to admit women and men who want a coed college experience. NDMU will continue to educate women and men together to make a difference in the world.”

Patricia McLaughlin

The Notre Dame of Maryland task force discovered that enrollment in all-girls colleges had been steadily declining across the nation, with fewer than 2% of female freshmen opting for an all-women college experience. The number of women’s colleges in the United States clearly illustrates the decline in interest, even though all-female schools are flourishing in other parts of the world. In 1960, there were around 230 American colleges and universities designated for women only; today there are fewer than 40.

Notre Dame offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in STEM and K-12 education. It’s also known for its healthcare programs of study, including health sciences, occupational therapy, and art therapy. Dr. Marylou Yam, president of NDMU, spoke about the official switch to a co-ed campus and how it expands education opportunities for college-age men.

“By going co-ed, Notre Dame of Maryland University is uniquely positioned to deliver on its mission to advance inclusive and transformational education to more women and men and to equip them to realize their goal of attaining a college degree.” Current and prospective Notre Dame students can obtain more information about the decision to go co-ed by visiting the school’s FAQ page dedicated to the change. NDMU provides additional details regarding the thought process and timing behind the decision and mentions that the school’s founders, School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND), approve of the decision to become a fully co-educational campus.

The school also promises to continue its legacy of promoting the advancement of women through its minor degree in women’s studies and through two women’s leadership development programs. Notre Dame of Maryland’s female students will still be able to choose all-women housing, or live in Doyle Hall with male students on different floors. The school has already housed male students in Doyle Hall for many years, so this will not be anything new for current NDMU students, and as an NCAA Division III university, the school will add teams for men in the 2023-24 academic year in soccer, tennis, track, and several other sports.

Notre Dame

NDMU was founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, a Catholic congregation that formed in Wald, Bavaria in 1833 and later moved to Baltimore to begin a school for impoverished girls and women who had immigrated from Germany. In 1895, NDMU was established and eventually became the first Catholic college for women in the United States to award four-year baccalaureate degrees. In 1984, Notre Dame began offering graduate degree programs, which later included becoming the first U.S. women’s college to offer a School of Pharmacy and Doctor of Pharmacy degree.