AURORA, N.Y. (AP) – Wells College’s inaugural coed class will include at least 21 males among what school officials say is the largest freshman class in two decades.

Wells trustees caused a stir among students and alumni when they decided in October to admit male students this fall for the first time in the school’s 137-year history.

The decision provoked a weeklong protest during which students camped out in front of the school’s administration building. The controversy, which attracted national attention, also triggered an unsuccessful lawsuit by two students who challenged the move.

“It’s a good thing we sued the college,” said Karen Nader Lago, a spokeswoman for a group of students, parents and alumni who opposed the change. “They can chalk those numbers up to the publicity we gave them.”

Wells officials could not immediately provide an exact number of students who decided to leave Wells because it was going coed, although Lago’s daughter was one of several students who decided to transfer.

“Unfortunately, they (administrators) still haven’t address the school’s real problems,” said Lago, who listed poor recruiting and financial mismanagement among the top issues facing the school.

For nearly two decades, Wells had been unable to stimulate enrollment beyond the 400 student level, despite intensive recruitment techniques and strong student financial-aid programs, school officials said. Current-year enrollment at the beginning of the year was 392 students.

This year, Wells’ incoming freshman class totals 131 – including the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of college founder Henry Wells, said Director of Admissions Susan Sloan.

Sloan said the college received 1,012 applications from high school seniors and 68 transfer students also applied for fall admission. In the previous five years of being an all-women’s college, Wells received an average of 396 applications annually, Sloan said.

The college wants to raise total enrollment to 600 over the next five years. The college’s peak enrollment was 631 in 1969. There are now fewer than 60 all-women’s colleges in the country, half of them Catholic colleges, according to school officials.


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