Top Historically Women’s Colleges in the U.S.

Historically Women’s Colleges

girls in colleges

The list of all-women’s colleges in the U.S. is a small but selective one. The United States leads in higher education, and it is no different for women’s colleges. Most of them have a rich history of being ahead of their time and originating during a time when educational opportunities for women were severely limited. They have continued their tradition of offering excellent education to women over decades and have helped prepare influential leaders for the nation. Women’s colleges span a wide range of academic philosophies, religious affiliations, and price ranges.

Many of these all-women’s colleges later incorporated a coeducation model and began accepting men as well, though female students still make up the majority of the student body. However, they have maintained their uniqueness of smaller class sizes, high teacher-student ratio, and a focus on experiential education. They have gone on to produce successful graduates around the world, promoting not just women’s empowerment in male-dominated fields but educational strength for all. The selection of majors offered in these schools varies from liberal arts to the health sciences and programs with a strong vocational calling as well.

In this ranking, we explore the top all-women’s colleges in the US and what makes them stand out among their coeducational peers. We used College Navigator and the US News and World Report to research and find women-focused universities in the United States. There is data about tuition, enrollment, academic offerings, student support, financial aid. There’s information about campus resources and life in a fun, secure, community-oriented environment. We have not ranked the colleges but have listed them on high to low tuition rates. We have considered the annual average tuition for undergraduate programs.

Benefits of Applying to A Women’s College

Supportive Network
Learning in an all-women’s environment helps students gain confidence in their field. The environment is designed to help encourage women to gain more voices in their classrooms and clubs. Women’s colleges also have some of the highest 4-year graduation rates in the country

Higher Acceptance Rate
Acceptance rates at women’s colleges are higher than coed schools, even with their selective process. The reason is simple gender filtering. Less competition increases one’s chance of admission.

Strong Alumni Network
Many women’s college alums go on to become leaders in their field. Studying in a historically women’s college grants one access to a robust alumni network.

Smaller Class Size
The lower class size at liberal arts Women’s colleges are a big benefit. Students to have greater access to more professors. It also deepens one’s connection to the greater college community.

Online Programs

#20 Russell Sage College of The Sage Colleges

Troy, New York

Enrollment: 2,633
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 12:1
ROI ( College Factual): N/A


The Russell Sage College is a private  women’s college that offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees to over 3,000 students. Programs are available at the historic Russell Sage College for women in downtown Troy. It offers:

  • varied interdisciplinary academics
  • options to study abroad
  • opportunities for community engagement
  • a range of artistic and athletic endeavors

The comprehensive four-year college for women is integrally connected to the Sage Graduate Schools through accelerated bachelor’s/master’s programs. The Interdisciplinary academic programs capitalize on strengths like nimble thinking, versatility, and creativity.

Average annual undergraduate tuition: $30,383

#19 Saint Mary-of-the-Woods

St. Mary’s, Indiana

Enrollment: 1,703
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 9:1
ROI ( College Factual): N/A


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Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College has a rich history as a women’s college. It seeks to empower students to make a difference in their lives and their world. It is the oldest Catholic College in Indiana, and since 2015 also includes men in all programs. Founded in 1840, it has helped shape the fabric of both early Catholic education and women’s education in America. The academy received the first charter for the higher education of women in the state of Indiana in 1846. It was incorporated as Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in 1928. Keeping true to its tradition of aspiring higher, the schools empower its students to meld:

  • intellect
  • spirituality
  • ambition
  • imagination

Average annual undergraduate tuition: $29,950

#18 Carlow University

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Enrollment: 2,254
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 12:1
ROI ( College Factual): 7.8%


Carlow University is a Catholic liberal arts university which was called Carlow College until 2004. Founded in 1929, by the Sisters of Mercy from Carlow, Ireland, it wasa women’s college until 1945. Today it is a private, co-educational, Catholic university. It’s known for its 13 athletic teams that reflect the university’s Irish heritage and roots via the name Celtics. Located in the heart of Pittsburgh’s “Tech, Ed, and Med” district, it offers an exceptional education and networking opportunities for over 2000 students. Money magazine ranked it as the top “50 Colleges That Add the Most Value” in the United States.

Average annual undergraduate tuition: $29,652

#17 Mills College

Oakland, California

Enrollment: 1,255
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 11:1
ROI ( College Factual): N/A


Mills College is a private liberal arts and sciences college that prepares students to become leaders in:

  • science
  • engineering
  • technology
  • math.

Founded as the Young Ladies Seminary in 1852, it became the first women’s college west of the Rockies. It has consistently ranked as one of the top colleges in the West for academic quality and excellent value. It helps working women complete their educational dreams with:

  • flexible scheduling options
  • one-on-one advising
  • a choice of popular majors

The personalized education is designed to change lives. Its programs, resources, and a network of support encourage meaningful change.

Average annual undergraduate tuition: $29,340

#16 Brenau University

Gainesville, Georgia

Enrollment: 1,754
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 9:1
ROI ( College Factual): N/A


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Brenau University is a non-sectarian, privately owned institution. For over 100 years the institution has had a rich tradition of educating women through its exemplary bachelor’s, master’s, and specialist degrees delivered via five campuses throughout Georgia. The Women’s College is part of the Undergraduate School, which along with the Sidney O. Smith Graduate School, provides excellence in single-gender education.

Average annual undergraduate tuition: $29,050

#15 Midway University

Midway, Kentucky

Enrollment: 1,606
Student-to-Faculty Ratio:19:1
ROI ( College Factual): N/A


Midway University provides advanced instruction in a broad range of subjects based upon a strong liberal arts curriculum. Established in 1847, it began as the Kentucky Female Orphan School. The goal was to launch a revolutionary educational experiment of educating orphaned women. The comprehensive liberal arts curriculum and career preparation helped women at the time. It has evolved over the years to meet the educational needs of today’s women and men. Its historic Pinkerton Bell is a reminder of its gold standards and is rung for any happy occasions.

Average annual undergraduate tuition per semester: $12,250

#14 Columbia College

Columbia, Missouri

Enrollment: 18,000
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 9:1
ROI ( College Factual): 8.1%


Columbia College is a private, nonprofit liberal arts and sciences college that has been offering students exemplary higher education for more than 160 years. Founded in 1851, it was first called Christian Female College but changed to its current name in 1970. The college offers associate and bachelor’s degrees, as well as master’s degrees at the main campus and a total of 30 venues nationwide. It’s known for its quality educational programs, experienced faculty, and small classes that focus on individual achievement. Columbia College is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Average annual undergraduate tuition: $24,320

#13 Trinity Washington University

Washington, D.C.

Enrollment: 2,100
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 11:1
ROI (College Factual): 6.6%


Trinity Washington University is a Catholic university committed to the Education of Women through the design and pedagogy of the historic undergraduate women’s college. Among its five schools, the undergraduate College of Arts & Sciences maintains its original status as a liberal arts women’s college. Founded in 1897, the institution offers a broad range of educational programs. These programs emphasize knowledge, skills, and values of progressive learning in all graduate and professional programs. The Integration of Liberal Learning with Professional Preparation through applied and experiential learning opportunities offers a unique advantage to students.

Average annual undergraduate tuition: $24,220

#12 Wesleyan College

Macon, Georgia

Enrollment: 3,224
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 8:1
ROI ( College Factual): 6.8%



Wesleyan College is a private, liberal arts women’s college that has continued to educate women for 180 years. Founded in 1836, the Wesleyan College Historic District has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2004. Its academic offerings include 30 undergraduate majors, 33 minors, and eight pre-professional programs.  Fields of study include:

  • allied health services
  • engineering
  • dentistry
  • law
  • pharmacy
  • seminary
  • medicine
  • nursing
  • veterinary medicine. 

Average annual undergraduate tuition: $23,990

#11 Stephens College

Columbia, Missouri

Enrollment: 850
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 7:1
ROI ( College Factual): N/A


Stephens College is a private women’s college that offers its students the best of both worlds. It offers the social benefits of living in a college town and the advantage of an intimate, supportive campus community that a girls’ college can provide. Founded in 1833 as the Columbia Female Academy, it’s the second-oldest female educational establishment in the United States.  Stephens College is focused on creating graduates who are better prepared and more confident than their co-ed peers. Part of this comes through the innovative career preparatory programs. Access to numerous leadership opportunities ensures that Stephens graduates become effective leaders as well.

Average annual undergraduate tuition: $22,500

Online Programs

#10 Sweet Briar College

Sweet Briar, Virginia

Enrollment: 300
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 7:1
ROI ( College Factual): N/A


Sweet Briar College is a private women’s college that has been making history since its earliest days. Established in 1901, the college granted a B.A. degree for the first time in 1910, helping women make history for over 100 years. Its alumnae include:

  • political leaders
  • scientists
  • innovators
  • doctors and veterinarians
  • community leaders and decision-makers
  • disruptors

The innovative women’s leadership core curriculum is designed to empower women and create the next generation of leaders. Sweet Briar is a close-knit family of faculty, coaches, alumnae, and friends. It maintains the traditions of the Honor Code and self-governance pioneered by Sweet Briar’s first class.

Average annual undergraduate tuition: $21,420

#9 Cottey College

Nevada, Missouri

Enrollment: 350
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 7:1
ROI ( College Factual): N/A


Cottey College is a private women’s college that’s provided women with excellent educational opportunities for more than 130 years. Founded in 1884, it continues to offer a comprehensive and symmetrical curriculum for women that prepares them for the world. It is owned and supported by the P.E.O. Sisterhood, a philanthropic women’s organization. Over the years it has been ranked:

  • #2 Best Value School
  • #4 Largest Proportion of International Students
  • #2 Lowest Student Debt Load at Graduation
  • #2 Best Regional Colleges by 2020 U.S. News & World Report Regional Rankings.

Average annual undergraduate tuition: $20,500

#8 Converse College

Spartanburg, South Carolina

Enrollment: 1,329
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 12:1
ROI ( College Factual): N/A



Converse College is a private university that has been named among the top private colleges in the nation for “excelling in access and success” by the U.S. Department of Education. Established in 1889, it consists of an undergraduate women’s college and also offers coeducational graduate, online, and summer programs. It was among the first 15 women’s colleges founded in the United States. Named by Forbes and others as one of America’s Top Colleges, Converse offers quality education, research, service, and social mobility to create successful global citizens.

Average annual undergraduate tuition: $19,500

#7 Judson College

Marion, Alabama

Enrollment: 322
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 7:1
ROI ( College Factual): N/A


Judson College is a private Baptist women’s college that has been offering the best of education for 175 years. Founded by members of Siloam Baptist Church in 1838, it is the fifth-oldest women’s college in the United States. The founders strongly believed in education for women. Judson alumnae are women who worked to improve society from its earliest days. Its It has a Christ-centered and student-centered philosophy. Its mission is to help young women:

  • get the best education
  • make intelligent choices
  • contribute to improving society.

From the very onset, the school was focused on providing women the same quality of education that men received at Harvard and Yale.

Average annual undergraduate tuition per semester: $8,620

#6 Colorado Women’s College

Denver, Colorado

Enrollment: 152
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 10:1
ROI ( College Factual): N/A


Colorado Women’s College provides excellent education and opportunities for women to become engaged citizens and leaders in all sectors of society. It was established in 1909 as a private independent institution. The school has focuses on offering an academic and extra-curricular foundation for women to unleash their full potential. The school merged with the University of Denver in 1982, offering its students more extensive learning and networking opportunities. It continues to operate as a division within the University with its day, weekend, evening, and online programs. For the past 130 years, it has remained a center of excellence for women.

Average annual undergraduate tuition: $17,112

#5 Bennett College for Women

Greensboro, North Carolina

Enrollment: 780
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 11:1
ROI (College Factual): N/A


Bennett College is a private historically black liberal arts college for women and a United Methodist Church-related institution. Founded in 1873, it began as a school. It was originally a coed institution to educate freedmen and train both men and women as teachers. In 1926 it became a four-year women’s college and strongly believed that education should be related to humanitarian ends. It provides women with a strong academic and co-curricular foundation that encourages their personal development and prepares them to meet the needs of an ever-changing society.

Average annual undergraduate tuition: $15964

#4 Alverno College

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Enrollment: 2,605
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 9:1
ROI ( College Factual): N/A


Alverno College is a Catholic, Franciscan college liberal arts college primarily for women. The four-year, independent institution offers an abilities-based approach that combines liberal arts education with career readiness. It is home to one of the most diverse student bodies in the state. Nearly 1,700 students and faculty are a part of this inclusive, vibrant community. Graduates go on to work in diverse fields. 

Average annual undergraduate tuition: $14,328

#3 Spelman College

Atlanta, Georgia

Enrollment: 2,171
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 11:1
ROI ( College Factual): 7.5%


Spelman College is a private, liberal arts, women’s college and a global leader in the education of women of African descent. Founded in 1881 as the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary, it is part of the Atlanta University Center academic consortium. Its student body comprises more than 2,100 students from 43 states and 10 foreign countries. Spelman is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. It’s dedicated to academic excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. 

Average annual undergraduate tuition: $12,971

#2 College of Saint Mary

Omaha, Nebraska

Enrollment: 1000
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 10:1
ROI ( College Factual): N/A


The College of Saint Mary is dedicated to academic excellence and service-learning opportunities for women. Founded by the Sisters of Mercy, it helps women develop a greater sense of self-worth and confidence. It offers an array of affordable degree programs across disciplines like:

  • nursing
  • fine and performing arts
  • occupational therapy
  • legal studies
  • physician assistant studies

The school believes in the power of education to help women realize their potential.

Average annual undergraduate tuition: $10, 685

#1 Texas Woman’s University

Denton, Texas

Enrollment: 15,000
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 16:1
ROI ( College Factual): 8.8%


Texas Woman’s University is the nation’s largest state-supported university primarily for women. Since 1994, it also offers co-educational facilities and has health science center branches in Dallas and Houston. It offers degree programs in:

  • the liberal arts
  • nursing
  • health sciences
  • the sciences
  • business
  • education.

It is a member of the Women’s College Coalition. It offers a liberal arts-based curriculum that prepares students for the real world. It also graduates more new health care professionals than any other university in Texas.

Average annual undergraduate tuition: $7,796

A Guide to Women’s Colleges

Women’s colleges are among the most prestigious schools in the country and are known for producing so many notable world leaders. Most of the women’s colleges in the United States were founded in the mid-late 19th century to provide women with access to higher education. For centuries most colleges have been limited to men, but there was an awakening around this time which led to the slow but steady growth of opportunities for women. The goal was to provide women with an education of the same caliber as their male counterparts in Ivy League schools. Today, these schools are among the most competitive liberal arts colleges in the nation.
Most of these colleges were a result of the efforts of Christian missionaries. Most of these colleges also started as liberal arts colleges and later went on to offer programs in STEM. Characterizing these schools are:

  • smaller and close-knit communities
  • healthy teacher-student ratio
  • entrepreneur philosophy

Women’s colleges have a large number of extracurriculars that are both unique and tailored to their students.

Who Can Attend a Women’s College?

Women get a preference for admission, of course. While co-ed colleges accept male applicants, merit and gender are still prioritized. In the 21st century, some women’s colleges have revised their admissions policies to admit non-binary and transgender women. Eleven out of the 40 schools in the Women’s College Coalition have updated their policies to include trans women. These include:

  • Mills College
  • Simmons College
  • Mount Holyoke College
  • Scripps College
  • Wellesley College
  • Bryn Mawr College
  • Smith College
  • Barnard College
  • Bennett College
  • Hollins University
  • Spelman College.

Are Women’s Colleges More Selective?

Women’s colleges share the common goal of wanting their students to succeed and graduate as aspiring leaders in their fields. Some women’s colleges are more selective than others. Schools like Barnard are very selective and have high tuition rates. They are still much sought after because of the high quality of education they offer. No women’s college is identical to another, and they all have their own appeal. All these colleges have a number of features that make them an excellent fit for many young women. Each school has unique course offerings, networking, and internship opportunities to offer a 360-degree curriculum.

Class Cross-Registration Options

Some of these women’s colleges are located near bigger universities, which allows students the ability to cross-register and take classes at those schools. This means that they can attend an elite women’s college with all the benefits of its supportive, empowering environment and also take advantage of the resources of a bigger school if their majors require it.
Students usually cross-register during the second semester of freshman year at a more prominent university. They are then granted access to:

  • better equipment
  • a more extensive network of peers and professors who can help them excel in their field.