The Pennsylvania Department of Education has approved changes to the charter of Wilson College. The charter, submitted to the department in May 2013, contained updated language to clearly reflect the college’s shift to coeducation in the undergraduate residential program, along with additional administrative updates.
The Jan. 6 PDE decision from Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq comes following a June 2014 informational hearing that was automatically triggered by protests made after the charter text was published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
In its report approving the charter revision, PDE states, “Wilson’s decision to allow the admission of male residential students is a decision within the purview of its Board of Trustees.” The report also notes that “other proposed amendments also are not in violation of relevant law, regulations, standards or qualifications.”
Four Wilson alumnae served as limited participants in the informational hearing, offering testimony in opposition to the charter changes. They argued that the college acted improperly by moving forward with coeducation prior to PDE approval.
The PDE report acknowledges that Wilson filed its application well in advance of admitting male students, but states that the college should have received approval before moving forward with coeducation. However, the department does not believe this to be a reason to deny the charter application or impose other restrictions according to the report.
“We are happy to have the department’s affirming decision and to continue the successful work of the Wilson Today Plan,” said Barbara Tenney, board chair.
In January 2013, the Wilson College Board of Trustees approved the five-point Wilson Today plan aimed at ensuring a sustainable financial future for the private college. In addition to extending coeducation to the residential undergraduate program, the plan also included value and affordability initiatives, new academic programs, infrastructure improvements and increased marketing efforts.
The plan, which was in place during the 2013-14 recruitment year, has already begun to show progress. In August, Wilson welcomed its largest class of new students in more than 40 years and saw applications more than double over the previous year. In addition to the 24 percent of applications that came from male students, the college had a 43 percent increase in female applicants, increasing the reach of the former women’s college.
“Growth in our enrollment creates a more vibrant academic and campus life experience and provides a financially sustainable future for the college,” said Wilson President Barbara K. Mistick.
The increase in applications and student enrollment also represents a positive response to the college’s $5,000 tuition rollback and a first-of-its-kind student debt buyback program. This past year also brought the reopening of the renovated McElwain and Davison residence halls, the opening of a new student center on the campus, and a groundbreaking for the renovation of the John Stewart Memorial Library project.
“The whole campus is energized that the Wilson Today plan is beginning to bear fruit,” Mistick said recently. “The progress is the result of the entire Wilson community coming together to make the plan successful. And with our continued commitment, we expect to see an even greater effect on overall enrollment moving forward.”
Since the Wilson Today plan’s approval, new undergraduate programs in animal studies, graphic design, global studies, health and physical education, health science and nursing have been approved by trustees along with graduate programs in accountancy, fine arts, nursing and healthcare management for sustainability. In addition, the college has implemented increased marketing efforts, which have substantially improved Wilson’s visibility.
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Founded in 1869, Wilson College is a private, coeducational liberal arts college offering bachelor’s degrees in 29 majors and master’s degrees in education, the humanities, accountancy and nursing. Wilson is committed to providing an affordable education that offers value to its students beyond graduation.
Located in Chambersburg, Pa., the college has a fall 2014 enrollment of 759, which includes students from 17 states and 14 countries. Visit www.wilson.edu for more information.