When Rosemont College decided to become coeducational, officials thought that based on experiences at other schools that had converted in recent years, about 10 percent of their first freshman class would be men - maybe 20 percent, if they were lucky.

Yesterday, the school welcomed 74 men - 59 of them freshmen, or nearly a third of the inaugural coed freshman class.

The new diversity was front and center for many students.

"I came for the girls," kidded an exuberant Jeffery Tulao, 18, of Jersey City, N.J.

Mariah Truxon was decidedly in favor of the newfound testosterone.

"It's a reason why I came. All-girls colleges are kind of weird," said Truxon, 17, of Philadelphia.

Rosemont officials were banking on attracting more students like Truxon and tapping the male market when the trustees voted to go coed in June 2008.

The move brought a backlash from some alumni and a campaign to preserve the college's single-sex status, but faced with a $1 million deficit in a $20 million budget, the trustees pressed on.

Officials attributed the success in drawing men, which was key to keeping the small Catholic liberal-arts school afloat, to aggressive recruitment for male athletic teams and the attractive, suburban setting.

The college highlighted and celebrated the change as students moved in and attended orientation yesterday at the Montgomery Avenue campus in Rosemont.

"This is a historic moment for all of us, and we, at Rosemont, are reveling in it," president Sharon Latchaw Hirsh told students and parents.

In all, 225 new students are on campus: 181 freshmen and 44 transfers - nearly half the undergraduate population of just more than 500.

Hirsh, a 1970 Rosemont grad, said the school didn't offer more financial aid to men or alter enrollment standards to attract them. But it hired strong coaches for men's basketball, soccer, and tennis teams, who proved key in recruiting athletes.

Among the recruits were brothers Mitch and Harrison Carsillo from Collingswood. They said they wanted to play basketball on the new team and were excited that Ryan Tozer, a former assistant coach at Holy Family University, was named head coach. In fact, Harrison transferred to Rosemont from Holy Family to continue playing for Tozer and attend school with Mitch.

"It's pretty cool to be the first men on campus," Mitch said, sitting beside his brother in the dorm room they will share. "I want to make history here."

For the Class of 2013, 1,119 students applied, up 55 percent from the previous year. Twenty-six percent of the applicants were male.

Christopher Paulino, 18, a graduate of the Haverford School for boys, got a full scholarship to Rosemont.

Paulino's mother died when he was 12, and he didn't know his father. He has no siblings and was raised by his grandmother, who died this summer.

For him, the school year brings a hopeful beginning.

"I just like the atmosphere here. It seems really homey," he said. And he's been going to school with all boys since he was 12: "It's going to be good to listen to the perspective of females here."

He will major in sociology and hopes to become a school counselor.

"I feel as though I have a lot to offer kids because I've been through a lot in my life," Paulino said.

He was accompanied at orientation by Cheryl Keels, his cousin and a 1990 Rosemont graduate.

Hirsh said the coed conversion had required few changes. The school already had majors that appealed to men, including business and education. But it needed to build male locker rooms and adjust its basketball court and athletic fields.

It also plans to introduce a new logo - the rose just doesn't cut it any more - and mascot next week.

Several other small women's Catholic colleges in the area have gone coed in recent years, including Immaculata in Chester County and Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia. Both have more than doubled their enrollments since the switch.

Hirsh said finances were improved with the larger student body.

The deficit is expected to be well under a half-million dollars when auditors close the books on fiscal 2009, she said. Within a couple years, Rosemont, where tuition and room and board are $36,810, expects to be in the black.

Opposition to the coed conversion has faded, Hirsh said, and new students have taken to the school's new identity.

Nicole Schilk, 18, a graduate of Nazareth Academy, an all-girls Catholic school in Northeast Philadelphia, said she liked that she was starting at Rosemont at such a pivotal juncture.

"The school is transitioning with me," she said, "having been at a girls' schools and being with guys now."

Contact staff writer Susan Snyder at 215-854-4693 or ssnyder@phillynews.com.