As far back as 1884, Virginia Alice Cottey realized that educational opportunities for women were inadequate. Cottey believed that women deserved the same educational opportunities as men.
After the Civil War, Cottey attended a convent school in Edina, Missouri, for one year followed by a year in a girl’s school in Newark, Missouri. She was critical of the curriculum that emphasized social graces and homemaking skills over intellectual development.
After saving $3,000, Cottey and two of her sisters set out for Nevada, Missouri, to found their own institution of higher education for women. They chose Nevada because of the excellent rail access and the donation of six acres of land by the town fathers. The first building was erected in 1884, and Vernon Seminary, as it was first known, opened for the education of young women. In 1887, Miss Olive Gatewood became the first graduate of Cottey College.
It was Cottey’s goal to give women the best possible academic instruction with an appreciation for the liberal arts. This solid academic emphasis remains the cornerstone of the college that bears her name.
Cottey knew that for her college to survive, it would need a network of support. After joining the P.E.O. Sisterhood, she realized that many P.E.O. goals and ideals were the same as hers. In 1927, Cottey offered her college to the P.E.O. Sisterhood at their national convention. With that acceptance, Cottey became the only nonsectarian college in the nation owned and supported by women, for women, a characteristic still true today.
Cottey remains a liberal arts college for women. Courses of study offer more than 260 classes in 25 academic areas. The 10:1 student to faculty ratio plays an important part in the students’ academic experience. At Cottey, women are strongly encouraged to study math and science, areas traditionally dominated by males.
Women’s college students are unique individuals who are independent, open-minded, and willing to try new and challenging things. They want more than what typical coeducational institutions offer. Many students choose women’s colleges because of the leadership opportunities for women. Cottey offers a leadership certification program as well as a credit course in leadership in addition to the other leadership opportunities available through clubs and organizations.
Cottey College is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Music. Cottey offers multiple degree options. A student can complete a bachelor’s degree in four years with any of the following majors – Business, English, Environmental Studies, Health Sciences, International Business, International Relations, Liberal Arts or Psychology. Additionally, Cottey offers two-year, associate degree options: Associate in Arts, Associate in Science, Associate in Fine Arts – Art, Associate in Fine Arts – Dance, Associate in Fine Arts – Theater, or Associate in Arts – Music degree. These degree programs are carefully designed to facilitate transfer to a four-year college or university for students who wish to complete a major in an area other than one of the majors listed above.