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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 11/17/2009

Do college admissions officers discriminate against girls?

By Valerie Strauss

Is it easier for boys to get accepted into college than it is for girls?

You may be surprised to learn that the answer is yes, at least at some colleges.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has just begun investigating admissions practices to see if schools are favoring boys. It is starting by looking at admissions records from a dozen unnamed universities, mostly in the Washington, D.C. area, according to a recent report from Inside Higher Ed.

We know that girls constitute 57 percent of the students in higher education, and that females earn 60 percent of bachelor’s degrees. Many more girls apply to college than boys, yet colleges like to maintain gender balance, meaning that a larger percentage of male applicants are taken than female.

For example, according to data that is online in the Common Data Set, the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., receives almost twice as many applications from girls each year as it does from boys. While the statistics for the 2009 entering class are not yet available, stats for the freshman classes for the three previous years before show that the percentage of male applicants admitted to the college is much higher than for girls.

Here are some statistics from William and Mary, and two other schools, Harvard University and the University of Virginia, that show the different approaches by admissions. A reader told us about the stats, and I checked them on line at the university's websites, where they provide Common Core data. The links are below.


male: 13,660 applied; 1,073 accepted , or about 8 percent
female: 13,802 applied, 1,102 accepted, or about 8 percent

male: 11,389 men applied; 1,042 accepted, or about 9 percent
female: 11,566 applied; 1,066 accepted, or about 9 percent

male: 11,030 men applied; 1,024 accepted, or about 9 percent
female: 11,724 applied; 1,101 accepted, or about 9 percent


male: 8,380 applied; 3,014 accepted, or about 36 percent
women: 9,983 applied; 3,721 accepted, or about 37 percent

male: 8,121 applied; 2,742 accepted, or about 34 percent
women: 9,677 applied; 3,531 accepted, or about 36 percent

male: 7,218 applied; 2,680 accepted, or about 37 percent
women: 8,868 applied; 3,339 accepted, or about 38 percent

male: 4,309 applied; 1,859 accepted, or about 43 percent
female: 7,327 applied; 2,107 accepted, or about 29 percent

male: 3,930 applied; 1,713 accepted, or about 43.5 percent
female: 6,923 applied; 1,942 accepted, or about 28 percent

male: 3,812 applied; 1,671 accepted, or about 44 percent
female: 6,910 applied; 1,797 accepted, or about 26 percent

An anonymous reader of The Answer Sheet called this “patently unfair.”

“If it wants to maintain gender balance in its entering classes, it should be developing academic and non-academic programs that attract more boys — not discriminate against girls,” the reader said.

Of course, colleges discriminate in their admissions for all kinds of reasons. And the relative merit of applicants isn’t always a matter of grade-point averages or SAT scores. Schools give preference to varsity athletes, to children of alumni, to exceptional musicians, and sometimes, even to women, such as those interested in typically male subjects like mathematics or computer science.

I asked William and Mary’s admissions dean, Henry Broaddus, about the numbers.

Here’s what he said:

“The issue of gender in college admissions is an especially hot topic right now. There’s an inquiry going on that you may have read about ..... Although to my knowledge W&M has not been named in that inquiry, I do have to be sensitive to what may be playing itself out on a legal front.”

He also said that he has written publicly about the issue and talked about it at national conferences, saying that college admissions decisions cannot be reduced to a single statistic and that it is not an issue “of equity” but rather of a school’s desire to create a community that serves both men and women.

He has been quoted as saying: “Even women who enroll ..... expect to see men on campus,” he added. “It’s not the College of Mary and Mary; it’s the College of William and Mary.”

What do you think?

By Valerie Strauss  | November 17, 2009; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  College Admissions  | Tags:  college admissions, gender gap  
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Next: Fairfax: You've got to be kidding


Those numbers, in and of themselves, do not answer the question posed in the first sentence of the article. The numbers also are not 'patently unfair'. The hypothesis of the article could be true, but the author needs to look further into the numbers. It could be the case that a certain school is accepting more men than equally qualified women, or it could be that the extra number of women applying are not as qualified. What the author needs to find out is the percentage of 4.0+ students (male and female) accepted, the percentage of 3.5 - 4.0 (male and female) accepted, etc..

On another point, the last comment by the dean of admissions was inane.

Posted by: williamhorkan | November 17, 2009 8:17 AM | Report abuse

My snicker thought was that if women are heading off to University to acquire their MRS degree at the same time as their course degree, they're going to have some fierce competition looking at some of those numbers.

Seriously, though, having a fairly gender-balanced university class is a desirable experience for most. Those that don't want one generally apply to all male or all female institutions. So long as Universities are admitting only highly qualified applicants into each of the degree programs students are applying to, male or female, I don't think these numbers indicate a real problem.

Posted by: raynecloud | November 17, 2009 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Raynecloud, I unfortunately can't say that's true at William & Mary. From a strictly academic standpoint, the gulf between the 'quality' of in-state male admits and the 'quality' of out-of-state female admits is very, very wide.

That said, of course there are strong arguments to be made in favor of skewing admit rates to achieve a balanced campus environment. Obviously it would be preferable to do that by developing an engineering program instead of admitting less academically qualified men, but in the short term, with time and cost constraints, what are you gonna do.

I have to say I can't believe this is under investigation, though. Engineering schools like Georgia Tech have for YEARS been admitting vastly less qualified female applicants solely in order to avoid being made up of >70% men, and suddenly because some liberal arts schools are doing the exact same thing in reverse, it's a problem???

Posted by: lilybelle2 | November 17, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Regardless of the percentages of each gender accepted, in every academic year for all of the colleges listed in the article, more girls were admitted than boys. If identical percentages of each gender were admitted, than this disparity would be larger still - and wouldn't that constitute discrimination against boys - or is there a double-standard?

Posted by: dfl1 | November 17, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

I hear the Selective Service discriminates against girls too. Boys only ... oh the humanity. Stop the bias.

Posted by: mitlen | November 17, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

"From a strictly academic standpoint, the gulf between the 'quality' of in-state male admits and the 'quality' of out-of-state female admits is very, very wide."

So what?

This is a question of what the issue is. The question is how to deal with issues related to college admissions. There will always be issues related to college admissions. Someone is always going to feel screwed and feel that they have evidence to back it up.

The problem is that the "evidence" depends on who is looking and why.

And until you figure out how to handle the issue of redress, it isn't going to matter what you think that the issue is, that "should be" redressed. You can't do the former correctly, you're just as likely to screw up the latter as to fix it.

Posted by: dubya1938 | November 17, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

That's fascinating. Shoe's on the other foot now... I always wondered about those guys that went to W&M.

Posted by: staticvars | November 17, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

fr raynecloud:

>My snicker thought was that if women are heading off to University to acquire their MRS degree at the same time as their course degree, they're going to have some fierce competition looking at some of those numbers...<

Your "snicker thought? Yeah, real hilarious.

This is 2009, NOT 1950. Get a clue, and grow UP.

Posted by: Alex511 | November 17, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

The use of raw stats like these to make assumptions about the process etc. is just silly. I, personally, do not understand why we still allow for admissions decisions to take sex into account at all. That said, there may be sensitive period issues that play in here as well as admissions decisions based on subjects. Perhaps more women applied to study English, while more men applied for physics. Again, this use of stats is bunk, and most educated people will see it as such.

Posted by: bartelby | November 17, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."


Posted by: mitlen | November 17, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

I don't think the numbers support the author's position. Why do women always blame men for all their problems?

Posted by: katman13 | November 17, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

There have been efforts in the (recent) past to boost the percentage of *female* attendees at certain universities, for the sake of gender diversity. If the opposite occurs because of a disproportionate amount of female applicants, how is that any better or worse?

Posted by: Comunista | November 17, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

DFL1 wrote: "Regardless of the percentages of each gender accepted, in every academic year for all of the colleges listed in the article, more girls were admitted than boys. If identical percentages of each gender were admitted, than this disparity would be larger still - and wouldn't that constitute discrimination against boys - or is there a double-standard?"

And, per the data in the article, more females graduate than males, as well as there are more female undergrads than males. In certain circumstances, maybe more males are admitted recognizing their higher attrition rate. Re: the double standard, of course there is. Any person who says there isn't has blinders on. As always, it depends on whose ox is being gored. Maybe the Assn of Amer. University Women can weigh in with an "objective" opinion.

Posted by: boomer131 | November 17, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Mom Will Help You Get Into College, But Won't Help You Pay For It, Says a New Poll
I think they would rather spend their money of shoes.

Posted by: katman13 | November 17, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Looks like the schools in question are just trying to even things up a little. Nothing to get all worked up about.

Posted by: dudefromthebronx | November 17, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Nov 13, 2007

In the last three decades, women have come to form a solid majority of America's college student population. This is great news, but many others think this progress comes at the expense of college-age men, whose rates of postsecondary school attendance have stagnated. Read here to learn more.

Posted by: katman13 | November 17, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Patently unfair?

Women make up 57% of W&M applicants and 52% of those accepted. Still a majority.

I fail to see where any school has an obligation to assemble an incoming class that matches the gender composition of its applicant pool.

And I am disappointed that anyone would think that being the majority is not equal enough.

Posted by: OldHickory14 | November 17, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Yet how conveniently the author forgets to mention that the present imbalance in college attendance and graduation favors women at this time. As of 2005, 57% of total enrollment in colleges were women, disproportionately high compared to their population numbers. The gap between men and women attending colleges in most extreme when it comes to minorities:

This should be cause for concern for males, but instead we get the stories as we have above, a statistical anomoly at one college trumped up as some sort of major news story to reaffirm a culture of female victimhood that is not based in reality.

Posted by: BMcCarthy | November 17, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

In 1975 I became one of the first women to graduate from Davidson College, whose motto at the time was still "A Davidson Man Needs No Introduction." My friend and hallmate became Davidson's first female Phi Beta Kappa.

At the time, the stated policy was eventually to have a balance of 1000 male students to 500 female students. My first year, the ratio was, in fact, 1000 male students to 100 female students. And since no bright girl wants to go to date, marry or attend school with boys of "less merit", it was pure heaven. I've honestly never had it so good.

Pity the poor coeds at today's College of William & Mary.

At this point, however, the only statistic I'm really interested in is how my friend and I have fared in terms of career earning potential compared to our former undergraduate classmates. I'm afraid, however, that I already know the answer.

Posted by: jqw3827 | November 17, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

My grandson just turned 18 and is required to register for the draft, my 20 year old granddaughter was not. Equal protection of the Law

Posted by: fiorerr | November 17, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to see the same analysis for black and white students.

I also read that Virginia universities prefer out-of-state students who pay higher tuitions.

Posted by: win_harrington | November 17, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Take off the gender question from applications. People become overly focused on a person's gender and race, to the point that the quality of the applicant is lost. Why does it matter if the student body is primarily composed of boys or girls, if the students attending are of a high caliber? Trying to force diversity in a university setting hurts the quality of the education given to those students because the best candidates are not always given admission. People are people and as a whole are seeking higher education. Isn't that enough?

Posted by: flipster2000 | November 17, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Girls don't play football at W & M. Since women seem to constitute a higher percentage of the upper GPAs in high school, they should also receive a higher acceptance rate at these elitist colleges and universities.

Posted by: mortified469 | November 17, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

What kind of fresh b********** is this?

More girls are accepted into these colleges than men. Therefore there is NO discrimination against women accepted. None, nada.

"Acceptance rate" wholly depends on the number of applications received. It just means more women apply to more colleges they are not qualified for than men.

And now it is discrimination because of acceptance RATE? WTF?

Posted by: oracle2world | November 17, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Quotas against the more qualified and the more intelligent are an old story. The Ivy League discriminated against Jews. UC campuses have been known to discriminate against Asians, to "balance admissions". And at the same time whites have been discriminated against in favor of other ethnicities.

Admission to a college or university is not based solely on merit but on a mixture of standards and goals, in which merit is only one factor. Race is another. Gender is another. And so are wealth, political connections, not to mention legacy alumni. The precise potpourri of standards varies from campus to campus. Is it just or fair? Certainly not. Is it socially inevitable? Yes

Posted by: DKG1 | November 17, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Anyone looking around college campus today cannot fail to notice the unbalanced male-female ratios that heavily favor females. Why not a little affirmative action for males?

Posted by: slim2 | November 17, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

I don't think the numbers support the author's position. Why do women always blame men for all their problems?

Posted by: katman13 | November 17, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Duh! Because men are usually the cause of their problems.

Posted by: cjgh | November 17, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

ACLU should investigat this along with all the other bs whiners. more women,more blacks,more hispanics(legal/illegal),more asians,muslims,more hindus,more jews,more catholics,more gays etc etc etc. every one deserves everything as long as they can fog a mirror.. marx/lenin would love this.

Posted by: pofinpa | November 17, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Women are higher-achieving in high schools. It is not surprising that a gender balance would develop in colleges. I certainly find it problematic that lesser-achieving students get into a W&M because they have a penis. I'm surprised that so many others do not.

Posted by: bperk420 | November 17, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

cjgh: Keep repeating that and soon even you will believe it.

Posted by: katman13 | November 17, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Having a son that was accepted at both UVa and William and Mary, I can only think it was because he was a male.... Really now... Aside from William and Mary, the numbers for the other schools look very similar. The next thing we'll be talking about is the ratio of blondes : redheads. How about if we made college applications blind? no race, sex, religion.... nothing but transcripts, SAT's and community service. There's a lot that goes into college admissions, including the amount of facilities for women 9dorms, bathroom, etc.).

Posted by: thensell | November 17, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

It is pretty clear from the common data sets which schools are doing it. I am glad that there is publicity about this practice so that people can discuss whether boys really do need affirmative action. The defense that admissions thinks they have to have equal men to attract women deserves some scrutiny. If these women knew that other women were being denied entrance to favor less credentialled men, would that make a difference to them? I wonder if the men's greater future financial earnings for potential donations are influencing the admissions. To the girls still applying, review the numbers of women in each major and express an interest in one that you like and where women are under-represented. I would guess that a qualified female who expresses an interest in some aspect of computer science is a shoo-in.

Posted by: Dorothy1 | November 17, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm with williamhorkan and (to some extent) bartelby. Just looking at these numbers and trying to draw some sort of conclusion about discrimination is ridiculous. There's nothing "patently unfair" about those figures at all. It sounds like the anonymous reader assumes that unequal acceptance percentages between the sexes at W&M implies discrimination (which, obviously, isn't true). To make williamhorkan's point a little more dramatically, if you found out that all male applicants to W&M knew how to read but only one-tenth of all female W&M applicants knew how to read (assuming that the ability to read is important for college success and recognized as such by admissions staff), why would you expect males and females to be accepted at the same rate? For that matter, the roughly equal acceptance percentages at Harvard and Virginia don't imply that their admission policies are sex-neutral, either. Crying foul based on this data is simply a knee-jerk reaction without any critical thought.

Posted by: diesel4 | November 17, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Women write and complain about the dearth of intelligent male partners available, as well as the number of young men going to college. There seems no end to the nagging and complaining, even when they are in the majority.

Posted by: Grandblvd03 | November 17, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Small liberal arts colleges attract a much higher percentage of female applicants than schools like Harvard and the University of Virginia. (As your data shows.) Why is that?

The headline for your column is misleading, even though you didn't write the headline.

Posted by: Instructor5 | November 17, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

As a female I find these "complaints" interesting. If this story was about trying to increase the number of women that are accepted into universities to level the playing field, this would be a non-discussion. Why is it a problem when the discussion is about increasing the number of men in universitites? I think this is fair, and the numbers do not reflect such a disparity that we should be concerned about. College enrollment in most U.S. colleges/universities is down, so there are plenty of options available for both men and women. Why not spread the wealth? I for one am happy to see that our universities are encouraging an increase in male enrollments. Ladies we need to stop trying to have our cake and eat it too.

Posted by: Beingsensible | November 17, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

"As a female I find these "complaints" interesting. If this story was about trying to increase the number of women that are accepted into universities to level the playing field, this would be a non-discussion."

...assume, much?

No matter what the issue is, no matter what the "solution", some will be for it and some against. Nothing ever happens in this world without *someone* getting upset over it.

Private college? Public college? Scholarships for athletics? Scholarships for academics? Preferences for a certain major over another, instate students over out of state, whatever. someone is going to complain because for any given college, any given *institution* of any real value? There's always going to be someone "left out". You can't have an exclusive system without excluding people!

Posted by: dubya1938 | November 17, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Look how applications increased for females. From 6-7 to 8-9, the number of females applying increase by 17.7% at Harvard, 12.5% at UVa, and 49.2% at W&M. Why such a surge in female interest at W&M?

I've convinced that in 50 years we'll have as many sex-segregated universities as we had 50 years ago.

Posted by: blasmaic | November 17, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Wait a minute. You cite statistics for three universities. Of those three, two show practically no difference in acceptance rates. The only conclusion I would draw from this data is that a minority of schools are accepting males at a higher rate than females. Even in this case, I don't see why the disparity is of greater concern because more girls are applying than boys. If it was the other way, i.e. if more boys were applying AND their acceptance rate was higher, then I'd be worried. But this seems to imply that those universities that do have an acceptance rate disparity are trying to seek some gender balance. At some point on the gender scale, universities run the risk of being identified as a 'boy' school or a 'girl' school, which tends to discourage the under-represented gender from applying, creating a vicious cycle.

Posted by: Seamus2 | November 17, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

This trend is just trying to level the fact that a disproportionate amount of girls get the money for college while their brothers get to join the military or go straight to the working world. When I went to college, it seemed like the girls always had more spending money too. So I made them buy my beer at Friday happy hour.

Posted by: lauther266 | November 17, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

What I find odd is that, even though W&M received a record number of applicants last year (over 12,000), its overall acceptance rate--somewhere between 34 or 35 percent, as far as I can tell--is higher than its overall acceptance rate from 1988, which apparently was about 25 percent, with around 10,000 applicants. This probably has to do with different types of yield rates, and issues such as needing more out of state students. Back to the point of this article: I recall that, years ago, W&M had a 3-2 engineering program. Not sure if that exists anymore. If it doesn't, maybe it should be brought back. As a final note, the data referenced in this article are insufficient to draw any conclusions, except that, most likely, a greater number of males are drawn to larger schools with programs such as engineering and architecture (not to mention better parties!). W&M is not a liberal arts college. It's a small university (a sui generis one, actually), and I bet that many folks don't even know that it's a state school.

Posted by: DA12 | November 17, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

I also read that Virginia universities prefer out-of-state students who pay higher tuitions.

That's an issue with many states, not just VA. We have the same issue in ME.

Posted by: itsagreatday1 | November 17, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Affirmative action is wrong even when it works against those it previously served. The outcome of affirmative action in gender has been an imbalance between men and women. Unfortunately the goals turn out to be more than level playing field. Blind admissions are the answer.

Posted by: chesapeaketerp | November 17, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I hate to point out the mathematically obvious but:
1. If 57% of college students are female, AND
2. If males at that age represent about 51% of the population THEN
3. Women are being admitted a a rate disproportionate to their rpresenece in the OVERALL POPULATION.
4. Assuming that men and women have, on average, equal intelligence then the fact that more women are applying than men is substantively irrelevant because, definitionally the larger pool of women applicants contains a substantial number of applicants that are weaker than the average male applicant.
5. The comparison the column makes is irrlevant and trivial UNLESS we know that the women rejected are equally qualified to the men accepted. Since that cannot be true if men and women have comaable average intelligence, then there is no issue here except an author with standrads so low tha she thinks comparing apples and oranges is a valid notion.

Posted by: djah | November 17, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse

I went to a university that was about 75% female, 25% male, with a large gay population. We have no football or baseball teams; we are known for our fine arts, communications, and education programs (all fields that tend to draw more women than men); and we're a big city school. It would have been nice to have more guys on campus (seeing the same 6 guys over and over in my major's classes was a little old), but thankfully, there were plenty of other schools around (including the above-mentioned Harvard). I think it's important to look at more than the numbers... for instance, UVA has a strong engineering program, which will draw more male applicants than female. If my school, with its plethora of programs that draw more female than male applicants accepted a higher percentage of males than females to those programs, it might be an issue that they're turning away more-qualified women. Or it could be that, between equally qualified people, they're choosing the male over the female to make it more diverse. College acceptance decisions are based on so much more than mere numbers that I think it's too hard to draw conclusions based on one statistic.

Posted by: alizadk | November 17, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

And once again, WaPo educational coverage finds a way to whine about the selective nature of W&M.

Admission to Virginia's Public Ivies - W&M and UVA - is not issued to a teenager along with their Driver's License or high school diploma. The schools are selective and not everyone who applies gets in, even if they are bright and well-qualified. As someone who was crushed about not getting into W&M over 20 years ago with all the right numbers and recommendations (but ended up really loving and thriving at JMU instead), I can say that with some experience.

That half the girls in Northern Virginia apply to William & Mary and they can't accept them all isn't their fault.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | November 17, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

So let's see, in 2008, over 53% of applications that were accepted by William and Mary were from females, and this is discrimination?

How about some real analysis and compare SAT/ACT scores, GPAs and other selection criteria between the applicant pools. Is it possible these admission criteria played a role in the selection process?

Posted by: BlueIguana | November 17, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

I saw an article on this the other day. It turns out that colleges have found that the quality of women's campus social life takes a steep nosedive when the gender ratio tips past 60% female.

In other words, the admissions office is favoring men for admissions so that the women who do get in will enjoy their college career. I think that's a reasonable consideration.

Posted by: ZZim | November 17, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

More girls than boys graduate from high school, a trend even more prominent in minority groups. Of the kids that graduate high school, girls score higher on generalized academic tests and graduate with high grades. Therefore I would be extremely surprised were the average female applicant less qualified than the average male applicant. On the basis of these assumptions, the admission percentages for men and women at a school should generally reflect the applicant pool. If you have no objections to a university considering general "diversity" factors in its admissions process (but without quotas, which the Supreme Court says schools can do), then you should have no problem with schools considering gender balance in admissions decisions. On the other hand, if you think it should be on the merits - period - then admission of a higher percentage of male applicants is discrimination against women, and you should abide it. Just be consistent, folks.

Posted by: Observer1972 | November 17, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

What is always amusing is to watch colleges go through all sorts of contortions to get some "balance" depending on what group they want to favor all the while insisting that they treat everyone equally.

Posted by: orange3 | November 17, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

From Observer1972. I meant to say in my final sentence that if you think it should be on the merits and nothing else, then you shouldn't tolerate "boosting" male admissions for the sake of gender balance.

Posted by: Observer1972 | November 17, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

As a female who attended W&M in the past decade, I can tell you I never ran into an under-qualified student. Trust me, the jocks (who in most schools barely scrape a C average) were just as smart, if not smarter than me. These stats aren't enough to make rash conclusions about the acceptance process. Sure, maybe they want to balance, but maybe more under-qualified women apply thinking it's an easy liberal arts school that isn't all-female. And trust me, it's a hard school.

And I think it's fair to be selective. I'm in another state right now where there are only two real universities for the state: one public, one private. Sure, there might be others that are more like community or secondary schools, but you don't think these two aren't selective? At least in VA there are a large number of highly respected institutions beyond UVA, like Tech, JMU, ODU, CNU, Richmond, GMU, and on and on...

Posted by: GenyGal | November 17, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Someone complained above about the salary gap between men in women after college. there are a lot of factors in this but some it up with Men are from Mars and Women from Venus. Men by nature are more competitive will make moves to make more money, women like security so stay with the same company, and therefore miss opportunities for advancement. Not true accross the board I stayed at one job for 17 years...

Posted by: norm814 | November 17, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

After reviewing the article and being a college student myself, I have to agree that the article is bias. Where women have an imbalance is after college, looking for employment. Depending on what you major in, you may find work right away (ex-nursing) or you may be struggling to find work (ex-academics). Many women have difficulty finding jobs due to the fact that employers assume they will start families and need maternity leave. They rather hire a man where he is not going to request time off and they feel he will be more reliable. Sad fact, but true. Women still are fighting to be accepted in the professional world when it comes to equal pay and getting their foot in the door. When it comes to getting into school however, the schools want the money. They are not going to say no because you are a woman.

Posted by: tobyteddy905 | November 17, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

You cannot make any conclusion in a sampling of only three schools in this article, especially since two of them appear to have nearly identical acceptance of male vs. female students.

But what if fewer girls applied, and an equal amount were accepted relative boys? Or if this occurred with minority or GLBT students? I doubt an article like this would have been written if that was the case, because instead of being unfair in accepting girls or minority groups preferentially, this would be viewed as simply helping underrepresented groups get into college.

I think the reality is most selective universities value a balanced student body, both from an academic as well as a political standpoint.

Posted by: Girard101 | November 17, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

What a misleading headline for this post. Of course colleges aren't discriminating against girls.

Instead of putting together a bunch of misleading statistics to make an incorrect accusation, spend a few seconds doing some simple math. If a school has 10,000 applicants for 2,000 slots, and the school is hypothetically looking for an even boy-girl distribution, that leaves 1,000 boys and 1,000 girls they can accept. If 7,000 applicants are female, the school can only accept 1,000 of them, or 14%. That leaves the other 3,000 applicants as males, and if the school fills the other 1,000 slots with males, that means 33% of the males were accepted.

The reason this is imbalanced is due to both the un-equal numbers in the applicant pool and the male/female quota the school is looking for. You can't call it discriminatory if the school is looking for an even male/female ratio, so the appropriate question to ask is: Why aren't more men applying to the college?

Posted by: cmw21 | November 17, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

This isn't exactly a new concept. Nor is the acceptance rate of men compared to the acceptance rate of women a damning statistic. This could be shaping up to be another UC Berkeley problem.

In case anyone is unfamiliar, Berkeley had a similar problem in its graduate school admissions. It turned out to be a Simpson's paradox, a commonly known statistical phenomenon. The wikipedia page has a description of the Berkeley sex bias case.

Essentially, admission practices based on prospective majors could be causing the bias seen in the overall populations. I'd like to see a more thorough analysis, possibly controlling for other admissions criteria such as GPA, prospective major, number of extra-curricular activities, etc. and then see what the data says.

It may confirm what we are seeing here, or it may refute it. In any case, we can then make decision based on the actual situation rather than some statistical anomaly.

"Statistics don't lie, but liars use statistics."

Posted by: MylesK | November 17, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

easy answer..young women have a time during the month which makes them emotionally unstable...statistically this time frame must at times coincide with taking admission exams and thus that percentage of women may under-perform in the exam.

Posted by: kiler616 | November 17, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

The critical (and flawed) assumption is that these schools appeal equally to men and women.

When I lived in Williamsburg, VA, William & Mary had a reputation for maintaining a rather high lesbian population. UVA has some quietly built some impressive womens sports programs, which drew a number of my classmates.

Perhaps the reputation of a school influences the applying demographic. It has been demonstrated time and time again that men and women are drawn to distinct caree, so why would we assume that the offerings of the school wouldn't influence the application base?

Posted by: mattsoundworld | November 17, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

A number of people writing in here don't appear to be college material! No, just because women are the majority of the admitted students does not prove there is no discrimination. Clearly a larger proportion of women who apply to W&M are rejected than is true for men who apply. The effect is so large that it looks suspiciously like there is a lower standard for the men. Granted, it could be true that a lot more unqualified women apply, as some have said, and only an investigation looking into qualifications would tell whether that is true or not. But seriously, it looks fishy. You have to bend over backwards to explain why so many less qualified women would be applying to W&M compared to the other schools shown.

Yes, it is unfair for qualified women to be rejected based on their gender. No question. I think it is good that further investigations are being made.

But really it has been known for years that colleges have lowered the bar for men's admission. Somehow it was never considered that much of a problem for colleges' image to have more men, but it's different for us women I guess.

Posted by: catherine3 | November 17, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Don't leap to conclusions.

See the Berkeley graduate admissions example:

There's a good explanation of it here if you search for "Berkeley":

Things aren't always what they seem.

Posted by: VTHokiebird | November 17, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Maybe the schools think they are doing women a favor by making sure there are enough boys to go around.

I was in the dorms all of undergrad. I was in the dorms all of grad school if you can believe that too.

It seems the college boys are just waiting to get out in some colleges (Marshall University). They might not be able to (Shepherd University?). To the extent that college dorms are top heavy with testosterone and alcohol soaked young men, men in college dorms need their own magazine, Modern Immaturity.

Anecdotes from the good old Marshall days

* elevators that double as toilets if you just can't hold it any longer
* frequent fire drills set by the students themselves
* prank phone calls and the police could do nothing. The Charles County Sheriff's Department by comparison sent a 15 year old girl to JV in a month, by comparison, for crank calling us in Waldorf in 1987.
* Obscene artwork by one talented artist. There is an obsessive theme at Marshall with fellatio.
* A sign in the men's room pleading not to use the toilet for self abuse.

Posted by: cmarshdtihqcom | November 17, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Maybe institutes of higher learning are simply attempting to make up for or reverse the K-12 bias against boys in favor of girls.

Sit down at your desk! Be quiet! Stop being so physical! No one can learn while they are in motion! Comply! Submit! Don't touch! Bully!

Posted by: cash-less | November 17, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

That's a good point, more women could be applying disproportionately to oversubscribed programs at W&M, compared to men. Could be.

But only an investigation would tell for sure.

Posted by: catherine3 | November 17, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Well, are we sure this is a problem. It seems to me men understand that a liberal arts education from William & Mary is essentially worthless. Women are loading up all the fake degrees throughout the university system in this country. So although they are dominating men in admissions overall, what are they actually learning?

Posted by: mcgee_78 | November 17, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

God here we go again with a non-argument. Again with the Women are victims, even though they hold the vast majority percentage in something.

I argued this in College. I said women are the majority in my college, IUPUI, yet the professor, apparently trying for female support, said that they were still some kind of victim.

Now the victim mindset is that they aren't getting the majority of applications, while still they have the majority of enrollments, and graduation percentages.

This argument is about as dumb as the argument Women Feminists have against Joint Physical custody. Because before that women almost always got full custody while the father got stuck with a couple of weekends a month.

Now the rules are geared to 50/50 and in increasing cases men are winning custody.

That of course is a no no. Egads that equality actually means EQUALITY.

Posted by: wlockhar | November 17, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

"As a female I find these "complaints" interesting. If this story was about trying to increase the number of women that are accepted into universities to level the playing field, this would be a non-discussion."

...assume, much?

Not really...the record speaks for itself; whenever there is a disproportion in the number of men in any given area over women we women complain about equality in that area. Now we have a disproportion in the number of women enrolled in colleges/universities and the colleges are trying to equalize the number and here we are complaining that it's unfair because even though the number of women accepted is still higher than the number of men, it's not good enough for us because more women applied. Let me ask you a question; if there were 60 firefighter positions available in a certain jurisdiction; 200 men applied and 90 women and all of the positions were filled with male applicants who were by far better qualified than the you believe that their would be no cries from women's groups about unfairness? If your response is no, then you are lying to yourself...that's no assumption.

Posted by: Beingsensible | November 17, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

So, when the "evening" out process favored girls, it was good, yet when the evening out process "favors" boys, it's bad?

Posted by: futility | November 17, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

I cannot help but feel that I am, in reality, the experimental subject in some modern Millgram-like experiment on how people respond to incorrect conclusions. Do I stand up and stop the insanity or go with the flow following the directions from the "Instructor?"

After all the mechinations in my head, I have given up caring. But I suppose, so has my gender. Women have won the gender wars. We give up. Just let us stay at home with the kids. We will have dinner ready when you are home, we promise.

Posted by: zoonotic | November 17, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Things are not what they seem. I thought Shepherd was a superior school because they set higher limits than Marshall.

A little talk with my Marshall sociology adviser set me straight.

Q. The average SAT and ACT scores are higher at Shepherd College than at Marshall University but do you know why?
A. No.

Q. Where does Shepherd College get its students?
A. Many come from the interior of West Virginia (friends from Spencer, Glenville, even Martinsburg) but many also came from around Washington (Poolesville, Vienna, et cetera)

Q. Where does Marshall University get its students?
A. Kanahwa, Putnam, Wayne, and Cabell Counties WV and Lawrence County Ohio (across the Ohio River from Huntington).

Q. So, then, these students are learning for 12 years in schools in different places?
A. Yes.

Q. How do school boards fund their public schools?
A. Property taxes.

Q. West Virginia and Lawrence County Ohio have nowhere near the resources of the suburban areas around Washington. The Federal government attracts many thousands to work there, pays them well, and others come there to be close to the government, it is a jobs magnet, that is where the money is, home prices are much higher there than they are here. Property taxes are also very much higher and the schools also have more resources. Wouldn't you agree.
A. Yes.

Q. Wouldn't you also agree that every college and university will get the best students who apply? Average SAT and ACT scores are not arbitrary. They reflect the geographical economic reality of the students who apply.
A. I see now.

Posted by: cmarshdtihqcom | November 17, 2009 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Gender- applied - accepted - percent

Okay, the flaws in this mix is as follows.

Is "accepted" defined as the college made the selection or an offer or did the the student accept?

Then, the question arises, how many students submitted their applications to various institutions and how many students "declined" their college's "acceptance?"

I wouldn't put much faith into this article. As far as the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is concerned, for the most part, it has, for the most part, outlived its usefulness.

What's next? Affirmative Action for gender? Give me a break.

The Fed's, under King Obimbo, wants to run everything, from the water you drink, to the education of youngsters, to the subways and the motor vehicles we ride or drive in.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights needs to get a life and so does this author.

Posted by: Computer_Forensics_Expert_Computer_Expert_Witness | November 17, 2009 5:14 PM | Report abuse

The more important stat is: what is the breakdown of the entering class? My son is a freshman there, and according to the College Board, W&M's entering class is 56% women and 44% men. The percentage accepted in this case is not as important as the raw number -- a freshman class is finite. More telling is that MORE women are applying to college than men, at least disproportionately applying to W&M, and not so to Harvard and UVA. If W&M accepted the same % of men and women, then the male/female balance of the class would be quite skewed. Applying to certain colleges is self-selection, not selection by the college.

Posted by: Steakum | November 17, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Sure stay home with the kids. But we need to go over the credit card statement with you and we might need that card back too.

Good thing I am single. My job is threatened for lack of steady business. They don't want to lose me because I am loyal (I hate looking for jobs), dependable, and CHEAP (underpaid). We both know I am underpaid.

That is the American way. Even though one Web developer would like more experiences, give him less and pay him less than his brother-colleague. Equal treatment never seems to occur to anyone.

Here is our point of view.

You want a house because you think you own it. You're going to be renting it from the bank for 30 years, dear. Then it is ours.

You probably want a kid, maybe two or three. And expect they will go to college. By the time they get to college age (18) it will be maybe the year 2030 something and their college education will cost six figures.

I am a Christian. Do you expect us to tithe, too?

Why don't you see if you can print money on the computer? The Federal Reserve is doing it without permission from Congress. But if you do it the Secret Service will put you in the can.

I think the world has probably changed. Certainly the petroleum-intensive world will have to change. Maybe our rosy little middle-middle class childhood way of life will have to be just a memory. My own parents were unable to send my younger brother to college. The irony is he got a computer programming career five months out of high school and I couldn't get an applied research career with a Master's degree. Only with VR in Maryland and a second career training was I able to start a Web development career.

The money has to come from someplace. God could make it fall out of the sky. But I think He wants us to be grateful for what we do have.

Posted by: cmarshdtihqcom | November 17, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

The numbers reported for William and Mary for 2006 are wrong. It's not 4910 women who applied, it's 6910 women, and only 26 percent were accepted and not 36 percent (as opposed to 44 percent of the men). This is consistent with 2007 and 2008. The Common Data Sets showing admissions statistics by gender are freely available on line for most colleges. I've looked at this issue and there is not a single state college in America where the discrepency between male admits and female admits is as skewed as William and Mary's. Not even close. Unless the college is being inundated with underqualified female applicants, which seems unlikely given its reputation, there is no alternative explanation for the discrepency other than William & Mary stacking the deck against female applicants. The only question is whether this is fair and legal.

Posted by: postreader38 | November 17, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Those raw numbers and acceptance percentages don't mean much. A lot also depends on the number of colleges students are applying to, and the most important factor is still the qualifications of the students.

Suppose, for example, that the average female student applies to ten colleges. The typical male only applies to five. This means that women will be rejected at double the rate of rejections to men, and even if women were accepted equally, it would mean that women had to decide among six or eight colleges instead of the three or four that accepted them.

Part of these raw numbers might also reflect that more female students apply to college, meaning that in addition to the cream-of-the-crop people, more academically weak women apply while academically weak men don't bother and instead enter the work force. If this is the case, and if colleges truly weigh the individual qualifications of students, then obviously more women will be rejected. If a college is accepting all of the 4.0 students, some of the 3.5 students, and few or none of the 3.0 students, then it stands to reason that if more women with 3.0 averages are applying, then they will be rejected, while the numbers of men and women applying with 3.5 and 4.0 averages will be less imbalanced, and thus will be accepted at similar levels.

These numbers are being spun to claim a gender disparity where there really is none. Women already make up 57% of the college population, and once in college, a higher percentage of women are likely to complete their degrees. If anything, colleges should be worrying about how better to serve their male populations because in terms of numbers admitted and degrees granted, men are increasingly underrepresented.

Posted by: blert | November 17, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

What? There may be discrimination going on in the college admissions process? Might it be thinkable that a higher percentage of applicants (of any gender) from Wyoming or North Dakota might be accepted at William and Mary than from Virginia, even with lower grades or SATs than some Virginians who are turned down? Affirmative action based on race was a policy to advance equity for an underrepresented minority. Could the same principal be applied to males if underrepresented on some college campuses-- or women at others? (I accept this is an imperfect analogy). In the days when many all-men’s colleges started accepting women would you expect that there was an advantage to being a female applicant? Should there have been?

Posted by: bcompaine | November 17, 2009 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Am I the only reader who is old enough to remember looking over college catalogues in the 1960s and seeing statistics in all catalogues that the campus had significantly more men than women and the SAT scores for women were higher than for men? Funny, no one was concerned about discrimination then, even though everyone knew women had to be smarter than men to get into college. (And with no women's sports, we all had to get those SAT scores--the only nearly illiterate jocks who could get in on athletic scholarships were men. And while there were some student-athletes, don't kid yourself--I knew students whose work-study program involved "helping" the athletes make up missed classes, and they all said the majority of the team could barely write a sentence.)

Posted by: opinionatedreader | November 18, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

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