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Recognizing the Tremendous Strides Women Have Made in Higher Education 

by NSC Blog | Mar 8, 2024 | Clearinghouse News, Current Term Enrollment, Research Reports

During Women’s History Month, the National Student Clearinghouse is reflecting on and celebrating women’s accomplishments and advancements in higher education.

Women’s pursuit of higher education in the United States started with Catherine Brewer Benson, who in 1840 became the first woman to be awarded a degree from an American college, Georgia Female College (now Wesleyan). Elizabeth Blackwell became the first American woman to receive a medical degree in 1849, paving the way for future generations of women in the field of medicine. Similarly, in 1869, Arabella Mansfield became the first woman in the United States to be admitted to the bar and practice law.

The 20th century brought significant advancements for women in higher education. The passage of Title IX in 1972 prohibited gender discrimination in educational programs and opened doors for women in sports and academia. This landmark legislation led to a dramatic increase in female enrollment in colleges and universities nationwide.

Today, women comprise the majority of students in higher education. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center’s latest research shows that in the fall of 2023, there were over 8.3 million women in undergraduate programs and 1.8 million women in graduate programs.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we honor the trailblazing women who paved the way for future generations. Their courage, resilience, and determination serve as a testament to the power of education to transform lives and shape the future. Together, we can continue to advance gender equality in higher education and beyond.

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