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.
For all the Post's Education coverage, please see http://washingtonpost.com/education.
For more from Jay, go to http://washingtonpost.com/class-struggle
| 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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