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Women’s College In California Closing Down, Becoming Institute Amid Economic Downturn

Women’s College In California Closing Down, Becoming Institute Amid Economic Downturn

After 169 years, Mills College — one of California’s women’s colleges — announced plans to shut down its degree program and become an institute for women’s leadership on Wednesday.

Mills College president, Elizabeth L. Hillman, released a statement announcing the decision to close down on the college’s website, confirming that the college would be transitioning towards a “Mills Institute that can sustain Mills’ mission.” Beginning after fall 2021, the college will no longer admit new freshman students and promises to help create strategies for the students that are continuing at the college and those who start in the fall. Mills is likely to give its last degrees out in 2023.The statement also confirms that the Provost’s Office, along with help from “Mills’ accrediting agency, the WASC Senior College and University Commission,” will assist students with next steps, such as switching to a different university or college, or completing their degree at Mills. The statement reads, “Our Admissions Office will support students who choose to pursue transfer opportunities outside Mills through agreements with peer institutions. Mills is committed to working with these institutions to provide our students with streamlined admission processes, financial aid support, and pathways to degree completion.”

The programming for the new institute that will take the place of Mills College has not yet been decided, but the intent behind such a place is to continue the mission of the college. “Mills intends to continue to foster women’s leadership and student success, advance gender, and racial equity, and cultivate innovative pedagogy, research, and critical thinking by creating a Mills Institute housed here on campus.”

Mills College is located in Oakland, California and the college’s website touts its long history, noting that it is the “Oldest undergraduate college for women in the West.” It is described as “an independent liberal arts college for women and gender nonbinary students with graduate programs for all genders.” The average class size is 11 students with a student-to-faculty ratio of 8-to-1. It includes undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Data provided by 76% of the incoming 2020 class showed that 58% of students identify as LGBTQ.There were 179 total faculty members for the years 2020-2021. The website details what percentage of full-time and part-time faculty are female or faculty of color and terminal degree recipients.

SF Gate details the history of the college, noting that even though it made it through two world wars, the pandemic was too much of a challenge to overcome.

The college has also been known as one of “many firsts over the years,” per SF Gate. The timeline of the college on its website describes its journey since it was founded. In 1941, it was one of the first liberal arts colleges in the country to offer a degree in modern dance. It was the first women’s college to provide a computer science major in 1974 and the first women’s college to create an admissions policy to accept transgender students in 2014.

The president’s announcement explains the reason for the closure, citing issues such as “economic burdens of the COVID-19 pandemic.” However, included in the problems facing the college are “structural changes across higher education, and Mills’ declining enrollment and budget deficits.”

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