From Discrimination to Domination: Why Women Outnumber Men in College

In 1970, 57% of students at four-year institutions were male.

Let these figures from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) point out today’s changes:

  • Females made up 58% of the total undergraduate enrollment in 2021
  • Male enrollment decreased by 17% from 2010 to 2021
  • Within the same period, female enrollment decreased by only 13%

We did our own research and found out that some colleges prefer women and some prefer men in admissions.

So, why do more women than men attend college nowadays?

The groundwork for gender shifts in enrollment patterns in postsecondary education was laid years ago.

First, more females entered the workforce in the 1960s, and many sought college degrees.

Then, there was the passing of Title IX, which prohibited sex-based discrimination in academic institutions that received funding from the federal government, in 1972.

Lastly, in 1973, the signing of the Paris Peace Accords, whose official title was the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam, reduced the number of men going to college to avoid enlistment for the Vietnam War.

While these things sparked a change in college student proportions gender-wise, many other reasons play a role, too.

male vs female

A Competitive Job Market

A reasonable unemployment rate is between 3% to 5%.

The unemployment rate in the United States today?

According to the most recent data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s 3.7%.

That translates to 6.1 million unemployed Americans.

In today’s competitive market, women are more driven to get employed and succeed in their careers — going to college to earn a degree is the way for many females to unlock more career opportunities.

True enough, more women than men have college degrees: 39.1% vs. 36.6%.

It’s also worth noting that fewer and fewer males of today are pursuing higher education, particularly those who are interested in skilled trade jobs that pay well even with the absence of a college diploma.

The Gender Pay Gap

In two decades, the gender pay gap has been stable.

According to the Pew Research Center, in 2022, women earned an average of only 82% of what men made.

That figure is almost similar to women’s earnings in 2002: women received only 80% of what men earned.

However, the gender pay gap in the US has seen worse.

For instance, the gender pay gap among all workers (workers aged 16 to 24 and 25 to 34) was 35 cents in 1982 — in 2022, it dropped to 18 cents only.

Often, a college degree is an effective way to bridge the gap further.

Women armed with a higher qualification than a high school diploma have the necessary knowledge and skills to negotiate for higher salaries in order to get equal or even more pay than men in the same positions.

With the college gender gap bridged, it’s the gender pay gap that needs to be worked on.

Improving Societal Roles

Men went to work, and women stayed home to look after the kids.

That was the norm years ago.

Times have changed and females are no longer expected to focus solely on being married and raising a family — their contributions to the workforce are highly valued in many industries.

As a matter of fact, the World Economic Forum reports that women of today have 10% more work than men.

Still, they achieve the same completion rates as their male counterparts.

It speaks volumes about their being industrious workers.

The welcoming of women’s impact in the workforce with open arms by employers is one of the primary reasons why there are more female students than males in the higher education landscape.

It’s just that many females are now more motivated to pursue their dreams and passions.

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More Financial Aid Options

Everyone in college must fill out the FAFSA to determine eligibility for financial aid.

Other than the federal government, many entities help women fund their college education.

Women in specific majors or programs have more opportunities than the rest.

For instance, scholarships for female students pursuing STEM careers come aplenty from various businesses, companies, foundations, and non-profit organizations.

One example is the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).

In 2020, SWE gave away more than 260 new and renewed scholarships to female STEM students not only in the United States but also in other parts of the globe — it amounted to $1 million.

However, this female advantage doesn’t stop with women having more financial aid opportunities.

When it comes to male vs. female college graduation rates, women who receive financial aid are more likely to complete their degree programs than male students who also receive financial aid.

Better High School Grades

Stereotypes say that boys are better at math and science than girls.

Australian researchers disagree.

According to them, girls outperform boys in science, technology, engineering, and math subjects in general.

They add that female students shine brighter than their male peers not only in high school but also in other educational levels, including elementary and higher education.

But despite getting higher average grades in high school, females score lower than males in the SAT and ACT.

As a matter of fact, even the top-performing female test-takers still score lower than males in general.

So, why do more women go to college despite having lower standardized test scores?

With more than 80% of degree-granting institutions in the US no longer requiring applicants to submit test scores, college-bound female teens can count on their high GPAs to get in.

males vs females

Availability of College Degrees Online

Why there are more females in college than males becomes less of a mystery if modern-day technology is considered — we are in the digital age where students can earn a degree via the internet.

Thanks to online schools, women find it easier to balance their studies with other commitments.

True enough, a recent Statista survey reveals that more than 60% of all postsecondary school students who are studying online in the United States are females, and only 35% are males.

Among female college students online, around 73% are enrolled full-time.

Meanwhile, about 50% of them also have full-time jobs.

But it’s worth pointing out that female students dominate the online learning scene only at the bachelor’s degree level — more males at the associate and graduate levels (65% vs. 46% and 54% vs. 35%, respectively).

Female Role Models

From politics to sports, there are lots of successful females.

This alone answers why there are more females in college than males these days.

Plenty of women are taking leadership roles and excelling in various fields and industries, allowing the rest of the female population to see that they can be good at what they want to do.

Of course, a college degree can help them succeed better in most instances.

Mothers with college degrees — they also serve as role models.

Girls whose moms have college degrees and are doing great in their chosen careers are more likely to see the value of pursuing higher education after high school.

It thus initiates a multi-generational family of college graduates.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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