Goucher College, the independent liberal arts women's school in a suburb of Baltimore, gets nine stars. Loyola, the Jesuit college in Baltimore that merged with Mount Saint Agnes women's college in 1971, gets none. The University of Maryland gets five stars. Towson State gets eight. Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Virginia gets eight, and Mount Vernon College in the District of Columbia gets nine.
Who is giving out the stars and what do they mean?
They are measures of progress contained in a new guidebook that could be of help to every young woman trying to choose a college. "Everywoman's Guide to Colleges and Universities" is the most comprehensive guide available to college-bound women about what kinds of academic and athletic programs, health facilities, security measures, special programs and services, leadership opportunities and female role models are available to women students at nearly 600 colleges and universities.
"It's an old story," said Dr. Jessie Bernard, the eminent sociologist and author who was a consultant to the project. "When women are in some of these schools they play secondary roles. We just thought it was a good idea to find out what kind of schools were good and healthy for women. It's not a polemical book. It's just a fact-finding one. The criteria are specified: who edits the newspaper, who is the student body president, who does the secretarial work. It's a way of making clear how the schools pass these kinds of test."
The schools were evaluated on the basis of information they supplied on a questionnaire that ranged from demographic data about the students to the availability of day care, to athletic scholarships and sports for women, to educational equity policies, to what kinds of programs the schools have to encourage women to enter nontraditional careers, to whether the school has a women's studies program.
Schools were asked to describe their health services for women, including rape and abortion counseling, their school security, their housing for women and what rules are imposed on residents in college housing. Schools were also asked to detail the extent to which women hold leadership positions within the undergraduate community, on the faculty and in the administration.
The schools that responded are profiled in the book, alphabetically, by state. Ratings were made of the schools as to whether they were average, above average or outstanding in the way women were represented in leadership positions, how women were treated in the curriculum, and how they fared in the athletic departments.
The University of Maryland, which awards a fifth of its athletic scholarships to women and has heavy representation of women in intercollegiate athletics, got two of its stars in that area. George Washington University got two stars in the women's curriculum category. Women's colleges tended to do well: Smith College, for example, received 12 stars, while Barnard College, which last year won a battle to remain an independent women's college within Columbia University, received 11.
"It was interesting," said Bernard, "how many of the schools responding didn't even know it was a good thing to have women role models. They didn't even feel this was something to pay much attention to."
The guidebook, which is published by The Feminist Press, in Old Westbury, N.Y., was funded in part by the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education and the Carnegie Corporation. It includes a 24-page intercollegiate sports chart that lists what sports the schools offer women. (Some schools, such as the University of Virginia, did not respond to the questionnaire or follow-ups, and are not in the book.)
Over 6 million American women are attending college this year, and over half of them are 22 years old or older, according to the National Association of Education Statistics. Nearly half of the women students transfer after their sophomore year.
This is a guidebook that tells women whether they will see other women as teachers, administrators and campus leaders; whether they can play intercollegiate soccer, what kind of protection they can expect from sexual harassment, what the most popular majors are among women. By providing the college-bound young woman with a feel for what a prospective campus offers women students, it can help her find a school where she can flourish and avoid one where she may not.