Saturday, November 26, 2011

Women Outpace Men in College Enrollment: Why?

Photo by Graur Cordin
by Nicole Thomas
It’s no big secret that in recent years women have been enrolling in college in greater numbers than men. That’s not to suggest that men’s enrollment rates have declined. In fact, they have steadily increased. However, since the mid-80’s, women have enrolled at three times the rate of men. But, why? And, in what arenas?
What the Stats Show

According to the US Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics, the nation-wide trend began around 1980. In the 1970s, men out-numbered women almost 2-to-1. Within a decade, the scales would shift with nearly 350,000 more women than men enrolled in college. By 2010, women would out-number men by nearly three million.
Statistics show that in 2010 there were approximately twenty million people enrolled at a higher education institution (2 year college, 4 year college, graduate school, etc.). Of that twenty million, nearly twelve million were women (nearly two-thirds) with men’s enrollment at just under nine million (not even half).
This trend has been of national interest for some time. Economists, policy makers, and analysts across multiple fields are trying to figure out why this trend is occurring and what the implications are.
The Boy’s Project, a special interest group, states, “This gender gap has serious implications because a college degree is linked to higher earnings, increased civic participation, marriage and family stability, rates of incarceration, and national economic competitiveness in a global environment.” With similar concerns, the American Council on Education is aiming to close the gender gap as part of the “Bridging the Gap” initiative, now that males are a minority in college.
So, Why the Shift? 
Finding the answer to why the dramatic shift has occurred remains an elusive one, and there are drastically different opinions on the topic.
The Huffington Post on August 18, 2011, reports that most women surveyed felt that their college degree was valuable compared to only one third of men who felt the same. The survey also revealed that “77% felt that a college degree was necessary for a woman to ’get ahead in life’ while 68% said the same was true for men.”
The Daily Beast claimed in a January 2010 article that “you’ll be luckier in love,”  suggesting  that women with college degrees have happier marriages and that if the men don’t catch up there will be a slimmer pool of suitable bachelors to choose from, resulting in an increased incidence of unhappy marriages.
An article published by the Washington Post on August 8, 2011 states that women simply enjoy college more than men.
Sara Murray caused controversy when she published a January 2010 article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Women More Likely than Men to Graduate College at 22.” Readers weighed in. One accused her of being a feminist declaring that the statistics are “lies” and the “product of feminists.” Another writes, “Women get financial support from the government and feminist organizations and men get nothing.” Conversely, another argues, “Education provides certainty…Women need more certainty than men, hence the reason why women put education first.”
Some praise, or condemn (depending on where they stand on the issue), the feminist movement as the catalyst for motivating women to move away from the patriarchal status-quo, resulting in a reinvention of women’s roles in the workplace.
Others suggest that the jobs typically filled and/or sought after by women more often require a degree, whereas men have more options when it comes to non-degree job opportunities.
Yet others claim that “stay at home moms” are turning off the soaps and opening the text books. The claim suggests that tough economic times require both parents to bring in an income, and women must have a degree to be competitive in the job market.
Overall, whatever one thinks about the causes, the effects are clear. More women are enrolled in colleges nationwide and here in South Carolina. What that will mean for the future is yet to be determined. 


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