There has been much discussion lately about the future of women’s colleges. Some have been forced to go coed, while others, like Sweet Briar, are re-examing their future visions. It is a dialogue, honestly, that has been taking place for several years. At Bay Path, our conversation has had a different focus: change, evolution, and searching out opportunities that will allow us to continue our mission as an all-women’s University. We are pursuing trends in the marketplace that will help us to not only survive, but to thrive. Nowhere is that more evident than in our American Women’s College Online, the first all-women, all-online baccalaureate program in the country.


Bay Path has a rich history in educating adult women. We understand the complexities of their lives and this knowledge played a critical role in developing The American Women’s College Online. We listened carefully to how they want to learn and launched the Social Online Universal Learning (SOUL) model that provides a real-time adaptive, customized learning environment. From career services online to the WELL (Women as Empowered Learners and Leaders) program, we are tailoring what we provide to fit their needs and we are having great success.

Recently, we surveyed our 2015 graduates, including our adult women online. Of all the populations, students from The American Women’s College Online boasted the highest response rate of 83.3%. In fact, for the last three years their response rate has not only been the highest but, more significantly, their satisfaction with their education has been the highest of all students at Bay Path. These findings will help us better understand the educational needs of the nearly 77 million adult women in America who do not have a bachelor’s degree, and also confirm that we are moving in the right direction in our efforts with online learning for women.

Here are some of the highlights from the survey completed by the adult women online.

First, we wanted to look at the number one factor women considered when deciding to enroll in an online program. Overwhelmingly, 100% of our respondents noted we offered the academic program or major that would provide them the education and skills to get ahead in their careers. Next in order was academic reputation with a score of 92.5%, and then personal attention with 87.5%. Following closely, cost also played a role with 82.5% of the responders in their decision making.

Through the survey, we also learned what women considered important, both on a professional and personal level, in their educational experience: leadership development was chosen by 82.5% of the adult women, followed by empowerment at 80%, and women-focused at 77.5%. What’s remarkable is these program descriptors were realized in a virtual world—supporting our belief that online instruction with quality support can generate outcomes comparable with an on ground learning experience. Finally, we asked them to rate their overall satisfaction level with The American Women’s College Online and 87.5% responded positively (77.5% very satisfied / 10% satisfied).

But there is a larger question being answered with these results: can adult women who have had their college dreams derailed, have a fear of the classroom whether it is on ground or online, or believe that the higher education experience is not for “them” find success through flexible, adaptable online learning? We are learning through The American Women’s College Online the answer is ‘Yes.’

There is also another benefit to educating adult women that has a multi-generational impact on society. The Shriver Report (2014 study by Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress) points out that “…parental education attainment is now more important than family income in predicting a child’s future opportunity.” Stated plainly, there is a mere 13% likelihood that a child will go to college if his or her parent does not have a college degree. But, the offspring of college-educated parents are 49% likely to graduate from college (Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 2011). The evidence is clear: educate the woman and you educate the child, thereby increasing the statistical likelihood of addressing one of the most pressing mandates issued by President Obama—returning the United States to its position as the leader in four-year degree attainment in the world. It all begins with The American Women’s College Online—a revolutionary model that is breaking the mold for higher education for adult women.