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June 14, 2017

USJ to admit male students next year

Contributed photo Free greets students after being appointed president at USJ two years ago.

After approximately 85 years, the University of St. Joseph plans to enroll men into its undergraduate programs next fall, it leaders announced Wednesday.

The decision to go co-ed comes amid a dip in enrollment in recent years at the West Hartford private institution, which has its pharmacy school in downtown Hartford.

Undergraduate fall 2016 enrollment totaled 894 full and part-time students, down from 960 in 2015 and 1,065 in 2012, according to data reported to the federal government.

In a YouTube video released Wednesday, President Rhona Free said the decision came after consultation with students, alumni and others.

“While some would prefer the university experience continue as it was, there is a shared understanding about how student interests have changed in regards to the kinds of college experience they want to have,” Free said.

Opening up admission to men will draw not just men, but women who prefer not to attend an all-women’s school, said Free, who became president in 2015 and has looked for ways to make the school stand out.

E. Clayton "Skip" Gengras Jr., president of USJ’s board of trustees, said in the video that declining interest in same-sex colleges among college seniors was key to the decision. The success of USJ’s graduate programs, which have long admitted men, was another factor.

Gengras noted that nationally, enrollment of women in private co-ed schools rose six percent between 2004 and 2012, while enrollment in women-only schools dropped 3 percent of the same period.

USJ, founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1932, said the decision will not change its Catholic identity.

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