Another One Bites the Dust: Nation’s Fifth Oldest Women’s College to Close

On December 15, 2020, W. Mark Tew, president of Judson College, an educational institution for women in Marion, Alabama, that is affiliated with the Baptist Church, warned that the college would close if it did not raise $500,000 by the end of the year. President Tew said that another $1 million would be needed by May for the college to continue operations. Judson was founded in 1838 and is the nation’s fifth-oldest college for women.

The college raised $527,665.36 by the end of 2020 so the board of trustees voted to keep the college open for the spring semester.

The campaign to raise $5 million in statements of future financial support was launched by the board of trustees on March 3. College administrators launched an “All In For Judson” campaign, supplemented by print and digital ads, student videos, Judson stories, and other shareable content to raise awareness of the campaign. The college launched an aggressive advertising campaign with Baptist media outlets in Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Illinois, Tennessee, Florida, Virginia, and New Mexico as well as with the email distribution of Baptist Press.

Over the ensuing month, the campaign brought in a total of $1,255,273 in statements of financial support from friends, alumnae, and students. Alumnae donated more than half of the total. As a result, the board of trustees approved an operating budget for the 2021-22 academic year.

Now the board has reversed course and has decided to close Judson College. The fundraising drive launched in December didn’t bring in enough money, and enrollment declined from 145 to about 80 with only a dozen new students committed for the fall. The college’s financial problems became insurmountable when one of Judson’s creditors called the note on a loan. The college will suspend operations in July and file for bankruptcy.

Joan Newman, chair of the Judson College board of trustees issued a statement that read in part: “Acknowledging the incredible legacy of Judson, acknowledging the thousands of lives that were changed through a Judson experience and grateful for my own personal journey at Judson, it is with broken hearts that the board votes to suspend instruction.”

In the 1960s there were about 280 women’s colleges in the United States. Many have closed and a large number have become co-educational. Today, there are slightly more than 30 women’s colleges remaining in the United States.


Filed Under: NewsWomen's Colleges


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