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The US sex gap in university/college enrolment and graduation.


Editorial Team
Nov 21, 2005
United Kingdom
So seems to be a somewhat hot topic right now. Report came out about how women, that have for a while now outnumbered men in higher education, are now even more so than before. Graduation rates/dropout rates are even starker in difference.
We can grab numbers if you want but that it is would be the more interesting aspect here. Current year stats appear to be almost 60% women, a difference of millions.
Might also want to consider per capita things in this as rates of attendance there have risen massively over the last few decades.

Many reasons have been floated for this.

Expense is a big one, and it is quite a ridiculous one from where I sit (even the more "realistic" rates wherein the actual average price paid* vs theoretical max/that which is charged to out of country students). Debt numbers around half of house, several years salary (never mind starting out), paypack timeframes (especially coupled with employment potential) and it not being discharged in bankruptcy** mean I struggle to see it not being a consideration.

*normally you get high end schools thrown around in articles. More realistic stuff for in state (most states/universities in states will charge those that count as in state residents less), with financial considerations (rich parents means more cost, poorer students get some breaks) and scholarships (which show a considerable bias towards women in terms of availability and monies offered https://www.scholarships.com/financial-aid/college-scholarships/scholarship-directory/gender/male https://www.scholarships.com/financial-aid/college-scholarships/scholarship-directory/gender/female/ , though takeup and qualification would be something to consider here).

**if I am certain to be repaid then I can give more knowing I will get it back, and universities (which tend to be filled with people that can run an economic analysis, potentially unlike a great deal of their targets or victims if you feel like rolling that way -- 17 year olds not being noted for being the best at financial decisions, though decreasing rates like this do give pause) can also charge more knowing they too will not lose out. Cue vicious cycle, also cue dropping of entry requirements as more people = more money regard, some also note universities as having lots of recreational activities to further entice people to go for the years long party. Anybody want to bet against the cost vs max cap given for loans and timings thereof?

Some ponder whether the yay feminism approach adopted by many schools, both in terms of mandatory classes (be it because money spinner or because some ideology) and similar lack of due process (how common or not might be debated, its impact however is a different matter) make it less desirable.

Some ponder whether the trades are both more fun and if not more lucrative (though they certainly can be -- many skilled trades types if they get a business going and a small crew outearn basic salaries even for STEM stuff) then suitably lucrative -- some random thing said 900000 over the course of life, no small chunk of change but lop off loan repayments and divide by 45 for working life as a crude per year thing and remainder you can quite happily live on.

Some have wondered whether it will also cause a bit of a "man drought" if such things are seen as a necessary status symbol. Doubtless a trip through various dating websites, divorce reasons, or list of desired traits in spot questions would bear this out. Amusing more than anything from where I sit but something people consider, especially if women do stick to their guns and thus leave a whole generation of 20 something men with nothing to lose (seldom a good time anywhere or anywhen that has happened in history).

At the same time and related to the employability concerns are questions of whether every degree is a good degree***, both in terms of content of it and school you go to.
This would also bring up the differences in sex between courses; STEM (which is short for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) being rather favoured by males, and also tending to have the best rates of employment after graduation, job security, salaries and more besides.
https://www.typing.com/articles/mind-the-stem-gap has some odd language**** from where I sit (so there is a gap, do I care? Being where I sit in this one and questions of closing the gap are pointless as long as those that want to do it, and can meet the requirements, regardless of which flavour of wobbly bits they have. Whether/to what degree the gap is biologically driven is an interesting one, and I would generally note a large different in the nature aspect of nature vs nurture there) but stats to contemplate. It too notes STEM does not include medicine (and even then including nursing vs not is a debate there) and that changes numbers a bit.

***changes throughout time as well. Chances are 1960s you would not hire a graduate of philosophy to design your new machines but they probably can still read and write to a considerable degree, deal with all manner of interesting situations, research and more besides way more than the man on the street, might even have some language skills as well. Hire them for the business wing. Today it is a rather different story and social science types.

****though I generally find the idea that every aspect of society (every company, every role, every school, every disease, every salary, every politician) should match the overall breakdown of society, or maybe the more local one, to be bizarre in the extreme.

The nature of self teaching, autodidactic if you want the fancy term, also comes into play here. Without leaving my chair then for several years now (see https://openlearning.mit.edu/news/mit-opencourseware-marks-10th-anniversary , so 2003, which indeed would be when many looking to attend things today were probably busy being born. These were full courses as taught at the main MIT campus, MIT being one of the most well regarded technical schools in the US and thus the world and far from the only place participating in such things) I have been able to have world leading courses/research/material funnelled down my own internet pipe, and I have availed myself a lot of such things and do so every day. Libraries have long existed but this is something else. It has only got better as well, even more so if I am willing to bust out the credit card but that is more normal for a lot of things (even ignoring tutors, which is tricky from where I sit, then running classes on tools and techniques has long been a feature of technical trades, and "adult learning" in general encompasses a lot more). Some of it drifts into self help nonsense territory but hey.

So then. Any thoughts, opinions on why, did you go or not go for any reasons mentioned above? If you are did it all many years ago (I did, monies back then vs today even in the UK which is considerably less than the US, for the same education really, would have me pause if I were to do it all again and I went in for hardcore engineering, though jury is still out on how lucrative that was).
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