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Are women really overloading our colleges?

My colleage Dan de Vise reveals that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is worried about colleges getting such a flood of applications from great female students that they are lowering their admissions standards for men so that their campuses are not overloaded with bright women.
Right. It sounds stupid when I put it that way. Maybe I am missing something, but it seems to me the commission could find more worthy projects on which to spend our tax dollars. Dan points out that at many local schools the differences in standards for men and women aren't that great. It makes sense to want gender balance at a college, if you can manage it. The sensitivity about some category of applicant having an advantage over another also overlooks the fact that we have more than enough spaces at good colleges for good students. If they don't get into one place, they will get into another. But I have learned, in my many years expressing this view, that it raises blood pressure in some individuals and does not produce very intelligent discussions.

Some of the best work I have seen done on the gender balance issue was by Sara Mead, who did a study for the Education Sector think tank three years ago. I wrote a front page story and a column about the report.

Although women outnumber men on U.S. college campuses by nearly 60-40, Mead pointed out that the gap was not nearly that big for traditional students---those that go to four year colleges right out of high school. Women were overrepresented among older students and community college students. They appeared to be more likely than men to try to continue higher education after starting families.

The rise of women educationally is a good news story that we are seeing all over the world, particularly among women from low-income backgrounds. It should be celebrated. Just what the civil rights commission can do in this area to raise achievement for all students remains to be seen.

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By Jay Mathews  | December 14, 2009; 1:19 PM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags:  U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, discriminating in favor of male college applicants, gender balance in college  
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Next: Why I have no use for the achievement gap


Women are disproportionately represented in two types of colleges:

1) Chichi liberal arts colleges that a large number of sane guys wouldn't attend on a bet.

2) Non-selective state colleges. In these cases, in most states, the distaff advantage is predominantly minority populations (Hispanic and African American).

In all cases, the reason boys are "underrepresented" is because of grades, not test scores. And as I've said a couple billion times, grades are a fraud. If the chichi liberal arts schools started paying boys lots of money to attend and looked at test scores rather than grades, the imbalance would end.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | December 14, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Women represent higher percentages of students in nearly all types of universities (exceptions being specialized technical schools like M.I.T.). At UCLA, for example, women make up slightly more than 55% of the overall undergraduate student body.
My experiences teaching in both public and private high schools for 13 years in Ca. led me to conclude generally that:
1. Girls work harder than boys and are better organized. They are better students.
2. Boys are more likely to take a "good enough" or just get it done approach.

What's more higher percentages of females than males graduate university, even after balancing for higher percentages of females coming in. Girls get better grades in university and more go on to graduate schools.

Problem is that females want to go to more gender-balanced schools generally (look at how much easier it is for a top female student to get into an all girl college than a comparable coed school- Wellesley v. Swarthmore or Smith v. Bowdoin.

Bottom line is that just like Asian-Americans have a higher admissions bar set than other applicants, so too females have a higher bar than males. Hence we should be talking about those two groups (which obviously overlap somewhat) as being under-represented at selective universities. Don't think so? Take a look at the gender and racial makeups of the flagship Univ. of Ca. schools (Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego) where discrimination is prohibited.

Posted by: patrickmattimore1 | December 14, 2009 7:48 PM | Report abuse

You are, indeed, missing something. The War Against Boys. From Sommers, herself: "Did anything of value come out of the manufactured crisis of diminished girls? There were some positive developments. Parents, teachers, and administrators now pay more attention to girls' deficits in math and science, and they offer more support for girls' participation in sports. But these benefits could and should have been achieved without promulgating the myth of the incredible shrinking girl or presenting boys as the unfairly favored sex." (end quote)

Why aren't you looking beneath the surface on why boy's arent' going to college? You make fun of the notion, again, contributing to the notion of the young girl that could do so much more if she wasn't held back by her gender. The pro-girl campaign you rally for will surely set boys back, yet again.

Posted by: skatergirl | December 14, 2009 10:12 PM | Report abuse

"Women represent higher percentages of students in nearly all types of universities "

I said "disproportionately". 55% at UCLA isn't quite disproportionate.

In almost every school where I've found data, the bulk of the imbalance occurs in African American and Hispanic students. The few exceptions have been non-selective schools in the mid-west with predominantly white populations. I doubt things have changed all that much.

As for your sexist nonsense about women's fabulous work ethic, isn't it odd how their hard work doesn't translate to higher test scores? Weird, huh?

Repeat after me, Patrick: Grades are a fraud. And that's where girls do better than boys.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | December 15, 2009 12:25 AM | Report abuse

I don't know if it's women being better students, but I do think that women tend to value safety and security, and tend to be more risk-averse. Why else would they be getting more and more college degrees? More degrees = more security, I guess.

To give you an example of how this plays out, my wife graduated at the top of her high school class, went on to a selective university, and graduated with high honors and a 3.9+ GPA. I, on the other hand, did enough to get by in high school, went to a big state school and partied hard, again, doing only enough to get by. Sure, I graduated, but I wasn't exactly on the dean's list.

Now I'll grant that my wife is legitimately smarter than me, but not THAT much smarter. The difference between us can be explained by the fact that she put in that much more effort than I did. To make an understatement, she placed a higher value on excelling in her studies.

Personally, I don't feel shortchanged by the system, as we both got what we wanted out of college. She got her academic fix and sheepskin security, and I got a favorable enough female:male ratio to have a great time and land a wife I don't deserve. Sounds like a win/win to me.

Posted by: afsljafweljkjlfe | December 15, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

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