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Posted at 4:30 AM ET, 01/26/2010

College gender gap stabilizing?

By Valerie Strauss

A new analysis shows that the gender gap in college appears to be stabilizing for every group except Hispanics after years of rising concern that the male undergraduate minority was dwindling.

The non-profit American Council on Education crunched data and found evidence to suggest that the gender gap has remained stable since about 2000, when men represented 43 percent of enrollment and earned 43 percent of the awarded bachelor’s degrees. It is only among Hispanics that the percentage of females continues to grow.

But the analysis shows that the overall gender gap in graduate enrollment continues to grow, with women claiming 60 percent overall.

The issue of gender in college admissions has sparked controversy of late, with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights now investigating whether admissions practices at schools favor boys and violate civil rights laws.

Some schools, such as the College of William and Mary in Virginia, say they take a higher percentage of males who apply--simply because there are far fewer males who seek admissions and they are determined to keep some gender balance on campus.

Here are some findings from the new analysis, called “Gender Equity in Higher Education: 2010, which follows earlier studies by the council in 200 and 2006:

--Hispanic females began to pull away from their male peers starting in the late 1980s; the percentage of Hispanic male undergraduates aged 24 or younger has declined from 45 percent in 1999-2000 to 42 percent in 2007-08.

Hispanic men have the lowest bachelor’s level attainment of any group studied--10 percent.

But there is a big difference in educational attainment rates between Hispanics born outside the United States compared with their U.S.-born peers. Fifty-one percent of Hispanic young adults born outside the United States have completed high school in this country, compared with 81 percent of U.S.-born Hispanics.

"Raising the attainment rate of Hispanic men—and women—looms as one of the most significant challenges facing American education," Jacqueline E. King, assistant vice president of ACE’s Center for Policy Analysis and author of the study, said in a statement. "In order for the attainment rate of Hispanic young men to rise, degree production will have to outpace population growth or immigration will have to slow."

--African Americans still have the largest gender gap in enrollment; 63 percent of all African American undergraduates are women.

--Among traditional-age students who are financially dependent on their parents, multiple years of data consistently show that for each racial/ethnic group, the gender gap in enrollment disappears as family income rises.

-- Today, 32 percent of white men aged 25 to 29 hold a bachelor’s degree, compared with 40 percent of white women. For both white and Hispanic young men, increases in the number of degrees earned have been outpaced by population growth, resulting in flat attainment rates.

-- Men aged 25 or older represent just 14 percent of all undergraduates and are outnumbered two to one by women in the same age group.

--Women now earn as many professional and doctoral degrees as men. Women also earn the majority of master’s degrees due to their predominance in popular fields such as education and nursing. Men continue to earn the majority of master’s degrees in engineering and business administration.


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By Valerie Strauss  | January 26, 2010; 4:30 AM ET
Categories:  College Admissions  | Tags:  college admissions, gender gap  
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