Peace College's Future (Opinion)

Sharon Rieger's picture
Monday, July 25, 2011

By Friday morning, Peace College had become William Peace University on Wikipedia. That's how quickly one impact of a trustees' surprise announcement Thursday afternoon had begun to transform the private women's college in downtown Raleigh. (The Peace official website was still using the established name.)

With some alumnae, however, the transition wasn't so smooth once the official word got out that trustees had unanimously voted to make Peace coeducational in 2012 and to change its name and in so doing, signal an intent to expand and offer graduate degrees, which is one thing university status means.

This is no small change for the traditionally small college (fewer than 800 students) in downtown Raleigh. Peace has weathered many of the challenges faced by private schools, which depend more on tuition to pay the bills than do public institutions, but like many comparable schools it is constantly trying to strengthen finances and enrollment.

William Peace, a Raleigh businessman and Presbyterian leader, gave $10,000 and eight acres of land for the establishment of a women's institute in 1857. The Civil War, however, disrupted the plans and the official opening didn't come until 1872.

The education in those early years was conservative and fit the times. More recently, as higher education evolved, Peace changed (as did other schools) to expand its offerings and to recognize the long overdue opening of professional opportunities for women.

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