Barnard has been a distinguished leader in higher education for women for over 100 years and is today the most sought after private liberal arts college for women in the nation. Founded in 1889, the College was the first in New York City, and one of the few in the nation at the time, where women could receive the same rigorous liberal arts education available to men. Its partnership with a great research university, combined with its setting in an international city and its unwavering dedication to the advancement of women, makes Barnard unique among liberal arts colleges today.
Barnard is both an independently incorporated educational institution and an official college of Columbia University—a position that simultaneously affords it self-determination and a rich, value-enhancing partnership. Barnard students may take classes at Columbia and benefit from the University’s academic resources, as Columbia students may do at Barnard.
New York City and its vast cultural and social resources are also an extension of the Barnard campus, literally used by every department to enhance curriculum and learning. The City is an inescapable presence, inviting students with both its challenges and infinite opportunities (from dancing with the American Ballet to working with social-change organizations to interning on Wall Street).
The College draws motivated, talented, curious young women who create a stimulating atmosphere and diverse community. Barnard alumnae include pioneers like anthropologist Margaret Mead and Judith Kaye, the first female Chief Judge of the State of New York, along with prominent cultural figures such as choreographer Twyla Tharp, writers Zora Neale Hurston and Mary Gordon, and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Anna Quindlen and Natalie Angier.
Barnard College was among the pioneers in the late 19th-century crusade to make higher education available to young women.
The College grew out of the idea, first proposed by Columbia University’s tenth president, Frederick A.P. Barnard, that women have an opportunity for higher education at Columbia. Initially ignored, the idea led to the creation of a “Collegiate Course for Women.” Although highly-qualified women were authorized to follow a prescribed course of study leading ultimately to Columbia University degrees, no provision was made for where and how they were to pursue their studies. It was six years before Columbia’s trustees agreed to the establishment of a college for women. A provisional charter was secured, and Barnard College was named in honor of its most persistent advocate.
In October 1889, the first Barnard class met in a rented brownstone at 343 Madison Avenue. Fourteen students enrolled in the School of Arts and twenty-two “specials,” lacking the entrance requirements in Greek, enrolled in science. There was a faculty of six.
Nine years later Barnard moved to its present site in Morningside Heights. In 1900, Barnard was included in the educational system of Columbia University with provisions unique among women’s colleges: it was governed by its own Trustees, Faculty, and Dean, and was responsible for its own endowment and facilities, while sharing instruction, the library, and the degree of the University.
From the original 14 students, enrollment has grown to 2,450, with over 37,000 awarded degrees since 1893. The integration of teaching and scholarship occurs at an incomparable level at Barnard. Barnard's faculty of 255 women and men are teacher-scholars whose paramount concern is the education of undergraduate students and whose professional achievements bring added vitality to the classroom. This commitment to personal attention and high achievement provide the ultimate learning environment.
Barnard’s liberal arts education is broad in scope and demanding. The curriculum includes a series of general education requirements—a program of courses the faculty believes provides a stimulating and thorough education, while remaining flexible and varied enough to suit a student’s own interests, strengths, and talents. Classes vary in size. Those in which student participation is important are small. There are opportunities for independent study and students are often invited to work on research projects with faculty members.
In 2007, Barnard College and Columbia University amended and extended the longstanding agreement for cooperation between the institutions, an agreement which remains unique in higher education. Barnard stands as an independent college for women with its own curriculum, faculty, admissions standards, graduation requirements, trustees, endowment, and physical plant. At the same time, Barnard and Columbia share resources, thereby giving students open access to the courses, facilities, and libraries of both schools. Barnard and Columbia students also share in a wide variety of social and extracurricular activities. Barnard boasts 80 undergraduate clubs, and students have access to an additional 140 at Columbia.
From its inception, Barnard has been committed to advancing the academic, personal, and professional success of women. Students benefit from an atmosphere in which over half of the full-time faculty are women, and women are well represented in the administration. The College is led by Debora L. Spar, former Spangler Family Professor of Business Administration and Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Research and Development at Harvard Business School. At Barnard, women are given the opportunities and the freedom to lead both in and out of the classroom, and to develop the skills that will equip them to lead throughout their lives.
Barnard’s unique ties to several of Columbia’s graduate schools and to premier New York City institutions, including the Juilliard School, the Manhattan School of Music, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and Teachers College, give students an unusual range of educational options, including a number of joint degree programs. Academic organizations within and beyond the University also offer vital opportunities for research, study, studio experience, internships, and community service.
Barnard has a high student retention rate, an indication of student satisfaction with the college experience. Barnard students also enjoy leaves for study, travel, and internships. About two-thirds of students graduate having undertaken an internship at sites ranging from investment banks like Goldman Sachs to cultural institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, network news programs including 60 Minutes, medical facilities including New York Presbyterian Medical Center, and a wide range of other venues. Every year Barnard admits about 80 transfer students who come to take advantage of the educational opportunities available to Barnard women.
Every year the Office of Career Development collects and summarizes information about post-baccalaureate study and employment. In the first year after graduation, almost one-third of Barnard graduates enter full-time graduate or professional schools, with the largest proportions opting to study medicine, law, or business. The rest obtain employment in business and industry, the arts, communications, teaching, social services, and many other fields.
Barnard College is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, 3624 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, 215-662-5606. The Commission on Higher Education is an institutional accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Commission on Recognition of Postsecondary Accreditation. The Barnard College Education Program is accredited by The New York State Education Department in Albany, NY, 12234, for provisional teaching certification for childhood and adolescent education.
The Barnard campus occupies four acres of urban property along the west side of Broadway between 116th and 120th Streets. At the southern end of the campus, four residence buildings, Brooks Hall (1907), Hewitt Hall (1925), Helen Reid Hall (1961), Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger Hall, formerly Centennial Hall (1988), form an enclosed quadrangle. In 2003, the College’s four oldest buildings were added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Barnard Hall, formerly Students Hall, 1917, renamed in 1926, is just north of the “Quad” and contains seminar rooms, classrooms, and faculty offices, as well as the LeFrak Gymnasium, a swimming pool, and dance studios. The Sulzberger Parlor on the third floor is used for meetings and special events. The Julius S. Held Lecture Hall, an electronically equipped multimedia classroom, is also on the third floor.
Adele Lehman Hall, 1959, contains the Wollman Library and two floors of faculty offices and classrooms. The library includes the reserve room on the first floor; the reference area, periodicals, microforms, and open book stacks on the second floor; and on the third floor, audiovisual facilities and more open stacks. Computer facilities for the Economics and Political Science departments are also located in Lehman. The building overlooks a lawn surrounded by trees and shrubs.
Helen Goodhart Altschul Hall, 1969, and the newly opened Diana, 2010 (formally McIntosh, 1969), face each other across an open plaza. The 14 stories of Altschul Hall are devoted to the sciences. Herbert H. Lehman Auditorium is on the first floor.
Milbank Hall, 1897, occupies the northern end of the campus and houses administrative and faculty offices, classrooms, the Arthur Ross Greenhouse, and the Minor Latham Playhouse, a well-equipped modern theater. Substantial renovations took place in Milbank recently, yielding expanded neuroscience research laboratories and animal facilities, the Krueger Lecture Hall, as well as a redesigned and updated Math Help Room/Computer Laboratory.
In the immediate neighborhood, Barnard maintains additional residence halls, including Plimpton Hall, acquired in 1968, and Eleanor Thomas Elliott Hall, formerly 49 Claremont Avenue, acquired in 1982 and renamed in 1992. In addition, three apartment buildings on West 116th Street, 600 (acquired in 1971), 616 (acquired in 1964), and 620 (acquired in 1968) are Barnard residence halls. The College also rents additional spaces at 601 West 110th Street. Cathedral Gardens is the proud new member of the residential options. Located at 110th and Manhattan Ave., students have the opportunity to share this new facility with faculty members and their families, as well as with neighbors in the adjacent luxury high-rise condominium tower.
Columbia University is directly across the street on Broadway.
For a chart of enrollment figures from 1889 to 2014, click here.