Thursday, June 3, 2010

Women in College Exceed Men ... The Gap is Widening

Written by Educational Consultant, Lauren Kahn, M.A., CEO of Lone Star Ed Consulting   
Commentary from Nancy Greisemer of College Explorations and Mark Perry from University of Michigan (Flint)

When I graduated from Emory University in the late '90s, there was nearly an equal ratio of 1:1, women to men in my undergraduate class. Today, 52% are female and 48% are male. This may not seem like a significant gap, but let me break it down for you in numbers. In a freshman class of 1300, there will be 52 more women than men, which means it will be even harder for a woman to get a date on campus, much less find a nice gentleman to help her with her heavy groceries. All kidding aside, whenever there is a significant gender discrepancy in any direction, it affects the college climate.

Women continue to account for a disproportionate share of the enrollments at postsecondary institutions.
This trend has become an increasing problem and will soon be impossible to regulate in admissions standards amongst the genders. According to research by the US Department of Education. it is likely to become an even more dominant presence on campuses over the coming decade.

The numbers, collected and published annually by the department’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), indicate that by 2019 women will account for 59 percent of total undergraduate enrollment and 61 percent of total “postbaccalaureate” enrollment at colleges and universities throughout the country.

Between 1993 and 2007, the percentage of males enrolled in higher education dropped from 45 percent to 43 percent. And evidently, over the next ten years, the percent of males is expected to drop by an additional two points.

Why is this happening? In part, because there exists a gap between sexes in high school graduation rates. Fewer males than females are taking and passing college preparatory courses, and fewer are graduating from high school. In 2006, approximately 10.3% males and 8.3% females dropped out of high school, which is a double digit decrease from the percentage of drop outs from the 1960's. (infoplease.com)

An economist from the Flint campus of University of Michigan, Mark J. Perry, has begun to explore this issue of inequality of gender representation on the college campus. He states, "The only degree category where men are currently slightly overrepresented (50.6%) is for 'First-Professional Degrees,' which includes M.D., D.D.S., and law degrees. The Department of Education estimates that by 2014-2015 there will be more women than men earning those degrees, and by 2018-2019 women will earn 51% of those degrees (see chart above). There are hundreds, if not thousands, of University and College Women's Centers across the country. A Google search of "College Women's Centers" finds almost 6,000 links on the Web. A Google search of 'College Men's Centers' finds only a few hundred links on the Internet and asks the question: Did you mean: 'College Women's Centers'?" Perhaps, we need to refocus our recruitment energy on the male gender for post-secondary education.

As an educator in the public schools, I have firsthand seen the lack of motivation exhibited from many of my low-income male students at the high school level. In contrast, I have seen a real sense of ambition and drive for success from many of my female students. Have we forgotten to nurture the male student in the classroom and adequately teach in ways that interest him as well as his female classmates?

And what does this gender gap mean? College consultant, Nancy Greisemer says, "Well for some, it means it’s going to get harder to get a date for Saturday night or to recruit new fraternity brothers for the local chapter of Phi Kappa Psi. But it’s also going to mean that at some colleges, the standards for admission of women may get even higher particularly at schools determined to keep the balance between sexes even."

Late last year, the US Commission on Civil Rights announced an investigation of DC area colleges to determine whether admissions offices might already be discriminating against women. Nineteen colleges and universities were selected for review. Although findings have yet to be published and the investigation continues, the latest enrollment projections from NCES suggest the possibility of an even larger problem on the horizon, as the percent of women in the applicant pool steadily grows.

In 2008, women accounted for 57 percent of the overall undergraduate population. According to College Navigator—a search engine maintained by NCES—most DC area college enrollments reflect the demographic bias toward female undergraduates. In Texas, the gender gap can be seen more prevalently at private universities, but is still evident even at the largest public universities. Below is the percentage of undergraduate women enrolled at a mix of universities throughout the United States.

American University: 62%
Austin College: 55%
Catholic University: 54%
Christopher Newport University: 55%
College of William & Mary: 55%
George Mason University: 53%
George Washington University: 56%
Georgetown University: 54%
Johns Hopkins University: 50%
Loyola University of Maryland: 58%
Texas Christian University: 59%
University of Mary Washington: 66%
University of Maryland: 48%
University of Pennsylvania: 51%
University of Richmond: 53%
University of Texas - Austin: 52%
University of Texas - SA: 51%
University of Virginia: 56%
Virginia Commonwealth University: 57%

Note that the percent of women currently enrolled at any college or university can be very different from the percent who applied or who were actually admitted. For more information on individual admissions and enrollment patterns, go directly to the College Navigator website.

How do you think admissions should handle this increasing gender gap problem? Should they give males the advantage in the admissions process or do you see this as unfair discrimination?


The information was provided by educational consultant, Lauren Kahn, CEO of Lone Star Ed Consulting. If you would like more information about Lone Star Ed Consulting's college planning services, please e-mail Lauren Kahn or call her at 512-294-6608. You can also view LSEDC's brochure here or purchase LSEDC's services on the blogsite on the right hand side.

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Thank you for your comment. Your input is greatly appreciated. - College News from Texas - Lauren Kahn, M.A.

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