Geographical Origins of Barnard Students

                                      “Where We  Came From”:                                  

A Short History of the Geographical Origins of Barnard Students


During the eight years when the Barnard campus consisted of a brownstone at 343 Madison Avenue (1889-1897), a total of approximately 200 students were in attendance. Two-thirds were residents of New York City, about half of them from Manhattan and about half of the Manhattanites them from the East Side. Of the East Siders , half came from within walking distance of campus, the others by the elevated railroad than ran up and down 3rd and 6TH Avenues.  Brooklynites proceeded to campus by ferry and trolley car. Those from outside New York City came primarily from northern New Jersey by ferry and from southern Westchester and SW Ct. by train. All were commuters.

When the College moved to Morningside in 1897, an increasing portion of its Manhattan residents came from Upper Manhattan and the West Side. The opening of the IRT subway in 1902, linking both Upper and Lower Manhattan to Morningside, was a contributing factor. Meanwhile, the College’s  less convenient location and a resistance  to  a commuting college experience among East Siders privately prepared for college likely accounts for their declining presence. Meanwhile, the numbers of students from immigrant neighborhoods in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens increased.

When Fiske Hall opened in 1898, its third floor operated as a temporary dormitory providing housing for 20 students. This arrangement ended in 1900 when the space was given over to planned laboratory facilities. Between 1900 and 1906 Barnard was again an exclusively commuting college.  While New Jersey and Westchester remained significant sources of non-NYC residents, students from outside the metropolitan region  were a rarity. The 47-member Class of 1903, with three students from outside the Northeast (including Helen Rogers Reid, BC 1903), was very much an exception.

The opening of the furnished Brooks Hall in 1907  provided elegant residential accommodations for 100 students. Although there were then some 450 students enrolled, the er 450  stBut dmanmade it possible to accommodate upwards of 100 residents,  but the dorm remained unfilled with undergraduates for its first five years of operations. Students were  increasingly coming from the less wealthy parts of NYC, including immigrant neighborhoods, and from the surrounding suburbs. There were never more than a handful of students from outside NY metropolitan region in any class prior to 1919. Barnard’s Registrar in 1906 attributed Barnard attracting fewer of the city’s privately prepared girls from wealthy neighborhoods to its inundation by economy-minded, public-school prepared  commuters, many of whom were Jewish.  Incoming  Dean Gildersleeve sought to attract out-of-region students with residential scholarships that were not available to City residents.

In 1913 New York State created the Regents Scholarship Program for New York high school students who did well on the state-administered Regents exams. The first scholarships provided winners attending a New York college (public or private; tuition-charging or free) a grant of $100 a year for four years, at a time when Barnard’s annual tuition was $150.  Although Barnard, at Dean Gildersleeve’s urging, promptly raised the College’s tuition to $200, the establishment of these scholarships almost certainly led to an increased interest among New Yorkers  from outside New York City in attending an in-state private college like Barnard .

Dean Gildersleeve Intensified her efforts in the  1920s to attract a national clientele and reduce percentage of New Yorkers in attendance. She succeeded in increasing the numbers of Northeasterners from outside commuting distance as well as a modest uptick in students from South and Midwest. By late 1920s, more than 10% of entering classes came from outside the Northeast and from abroad. The opening of Hewitt Hall in 1925 allowed the College to house upwards of 1/3rd of all students. Two years later, in 1927, the establishment of the Seven College Conference (“The Seven Sisters”) at Dean Gildersleeve’s urging marked the highpoint of Barnard’s efforts to identify itself with these “country colleges” and play down its Gotham roots


The onset of Depression in 1930 reduced the number of out-of-towners as Barnard became increasingly financially reliant on New York City residents who can still afford college by commuting and upon upstate NYers with Regents scholarships. Gildersleeve remained unwelcoming to NYC public schoolers,  especially Jews and African Americans.


Millicent McIntosh’s administration  in late 1940s and through 1950s began aggressively recruiting in local and regional public schools and placed less emphasis than VCG had on creating a national student body. Beginning in 1963, under the administration of Rosemary Park, Barnard attracting larger numbers of New Englanders among its Northeastern contingent and  its first Pacific coasters.Black students from NYC and elsewhere began to be enrolled for the first time in numbers.

During the 1970s Barnard experienced a decline  in the percentage of NYC residents and a modest increase in numbers from outside the Northeast. Hispanic students from NYC, often from Puerto Rican backgrounds, became a discernible presence for the first time.

The mid- 1980s witnessed both an accelerating nationalization and modest internationalization that have continued to the present.  In 1993 the percentage of students from outside the Northeast surpassed that of New York City residents.

Since 2000 the percentage of New York City residents has leveled off at just under 25%, while those coming from outside the northeast now represent more than one-third of all Barnard students.  In the class entered in 2014, West coast residents (14%) outnumbered New Englanders (11%).


Bob McCaughey – [email protected]
November 13, 2017



Barnard Classes by Hometowns
NY Outside
Class # %Manhattan % NYC Residents  Met. Region Northeast  Neast
1893-95 24 33% 68% 100% 100% 0%
1899 24 46% 67% 95% 95% 0%
1903 51 40% 70% 94% 94% 6%
1910 94 37% 64% 98% 2%
1925 168 33% 51% 79% 91% 9%
1929 249 30% 55% 90% 10%
1934 239 30% 60% 85% 96% 4%
1939 248 29% 53% 77% 95% 5%
1950 348 24% 45% 70% 87% 13%
1955 273 32% 57% 90% 10%
1964 428 22% 49% 87% 13%
1971 474 16% 33% 52% 82% 18%
1989 547 11% 24% 47% 80% 20%
2004 583 6% 23% 47% 71% 29%
2018 488 9% 24% 44% 65% 35%