Selecting the right college can be a tough decision for young men and women, and the factors related to that decision can vary drastically between genders. Women have long faced workplace discrimination, including a wage gap. A female student could extend or shorten the gap, and her educational choices determine if she can cross that divide.
But academic divides go deeper than career opportunities. Unfortunately, for women, school isn’t always a safe learning space. Stories about campus sexual assault lead the media, and they’re on the minds of college women across America. So it makes sense that women might also care about a school’s safety and resources.
To build this list, researchers ranked four features:
- The average alumni earning potential 10 years after graduation.
- The percentage of women enrolled in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs to recognize colleges working toward closing the gender gap in those fields.
- The best support services for women as well as other benchmarks, such as female student satisfaction.
- U.S. Department of Education data that report every institution’s incidences in accordance with the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). (Beyond Clery Act crimes, it includes reports of domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.)
The researchers were sensitive to the fact that campus sexual assault is notoriously underreported and that a high number of incidents could be indicative of a school’s supportive resources that may encourage survivors to come forward. Due to these indeterminate variables, researchers purposely weighted the crime-rate factor at half the value assigned to all other features so as not to penalize colleges and universities that are potentially fighting sexually motivated crimes against women.
All of the eight Ivy League schools made the list, and two made the top five. The University of Pennsylvania is ranked No. 2, and Harvard came in at No. 4. The California Institute of Technology ranked No. 5, Massachusetts Institute of Technology slid in at No. 3, and Harvey Mudd College topped the list as the No. 1 college for women.
The University of California system has an impressive 5 out of 9 of their schools on the team’s list, with UC Berkeley at No. 6, UC San Diego at No. 18, UCLA at No. 27, UC Irvine No. 39, and UC Davis No. 43. One of the most surprising notes about the rankings is that not a single women-only college made the catalog. Private schools also dominate over public or state schools, meaning an education at one of the best colleges for women could be costly.
For women willing to pay, and even for those unwilling to pay that have to take out student loans the cost could be worth it; it’s a matter of attending a school that not only helps build the next generation of strong women but betters their chances of financial success, works toward bridging gender gaps, and most importantly, keeps them safe and supported. But many women may not have the luxury of choosing a top female-friendly college. And perhaps that’s why this list is so valuable: It offers alternatives to the traditional academic criteria that define a quality schooling.
There are thousands of higher education options in the U.S., and each has its unique benefits; however, these rankings by CollegeStats and Entity take on four important factors that many women consider when choosing a college. The team feels that women, “deserve to attend a dream school that pushes you to excel, prepares you to be fairly compensated in your future career, and protects you from potentially dangerous situations.”
To learn more about this study, check out the full list of rankings here.