A private western Indiana liberal arts college open to women only for 175 years will enroll its first male undergraduates on campus this fall.
St. Mary-of-the-Woods College announced Tuesday it will begin accepting applications from men immediately as commuter students for this fall and it expects to admit men as residential students in fall 2016.
Currently, the college, which is located in Vigo County, near Terre Haute, enrolls both men and women for online and graduate programs only.
School President Dottie King said key to the decision are national statistics showing fewer than 2 percent of college-age women will consider a single-gender institution.
"We cannot be relevant to all women when 98 percent of women will not consider us," King said.
U.S. women's colleges that have admitted men have experienced higher enrollments of women, the college said, adding it "anticipates a similar trend."
Since 1960, 52 of the 230 women's colleges in the U.S. have closed, 22 have merged with other colleges or universities and 39 have become coeducational, St. Mary-of-the Woods said.
King told the Tribune-Star the college needs 800 students to sustain its undergraduate program but projections show it will barely top 300 this fall.
The school said its Board of Trustees voted unanimously to become fully coeducational on May 1. It had been considering such a move for the past year.
St. Mary-of-the-Woods, founded in 1840 by Saint Mother Theodore Guerin and the Sisters of Providence, has a total enrollment of about 1,700.