Unbalanced Campuses: Why Are There Fewer Men in College and Does It Matter?

Most undergraduates in the United States are now female, and some colleges and universities are beginning to find ways to recruit men, such as developing school sports teams, encouraging male students to apply, and even giving priority to male students in the admissions process. So, is this fair to girls?

| Imbalance between men and women in universities |

In the spring of 2021, about 2,000 students at Tulane University in New Orleans received an email they had been waiting for. “Marriage Pact” is a matching activity popular in major universities. These students had previously filled out a detailed questionnaire. On the day of feedback, each of them will receive the name of a classmate who is expected to become their long-term partner. However, after the results came out, about 900 women who participated in the survey read the email and were surprised: the person recommended to them was not a good match, but a best friend. This survey was for entertainment only. Most Tulane students did not take it too seriously and only saw it as an opportunity to get to know each other. But the results revealed a phenomenon shared by the school and many other colleges and universities: there are far more women than men in college. This phenomenon is becoming more and more serious now, and it affects not only the social life of students.

Nearly two-thirds of Tulane University’s 2022 freshman class are women. This number is shocking, but it is not an extreme case: the male-to-female ratio in American colleges and universities is about 2:3. In 2022, except for Dartmouth College, all Ivy League schools will enroll new students with more women than men. The ratio of men to women in state colleges and universities is even more seriously imbalanced. Among the freshmen recruited that year, the proportion of women at the University of Vermont was 67%, and the proportion of women at the University of Alabama was 56%. The proportion of women at most small liberal arts colleges is close to 60%, and the gap between men and women is even more significant at community colleges and historically African-American colleges and universities. Only universities with strong football teams, universities with the word “science and technology” in their names, or famous engineering schools such as Carnegie Mellon University have almost equal male-to-female student ratios, or even a male advantage. . But it is certain that today, among American college graduates under the age of 60, the proportion of women is higher than that of men.

Gender gaps in academic performance emerge early: By fourth grade, girls already perform significantly better than boys on reading and writing tests. It’s generally thought that this advantage stems from differences in brain development between the sexes, but not all neuroscience research supports this idea. In high school, girls not only participate in more volunteer activities on average, but also have better academic performance, even in science and engineering subjects. When they graduated, 2/3 of the top 10% of students in the class were girls. Although men have historically been better in the American College Entrance Examination and the Academic Proficiency Test for High School Graduates, now women have gradually surpassed men in the former and are about to catch up in the latter.

Girls have a solid academic foundation and can easily excel in college, which may explain why most of them are willing to take the college entrance examination. As for whether boys choose to go to college, there are also financial considerations: the opportunity cost of going to college is getting higher and higher, and you can actually work and earn money with a high school diploma. Young men are particularly vulnerable to this trade-off because they earn higher wages than women of the same age who also don’t have a college degree. They can find jobs in construction or technology, paying far more than younger women, who often end up in the aged care or beauty industries.

Richard Reeves, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, coined the concept of “male attrition.” He believes that men’s lack of access to higher education is both a symptom of “male drain” and a cause of this serious problem. Reeves said the rising suicide rate among young men is a worrying sign, pointing to a vicious cycle in which men without a college degree are more likely to lose their jobs, are less likely to get married, and are less likely to enjoy the benefits of raising children. “These people are completely disoriented,” Reeves said. Most recently, he created a think tank called the American Institute for Boys and Men to study the issue. The gender gap in higher education has been a focus of concern in the education community for decades. Since the epidemic, the situation seems to have worsened: the enrollment rate of men has dropped faster than that of women, and the rebound rate is not as good as that of women.

As a result, many colleges and universities are doing their best to close the gender gap—not just for the sake of students, but also for the sake of the institution. Admissions directors have long worried that if a school’s gender ratio is too disparate, both men and women will be unwilling to attend school (although no admissions expert I spoke to could produce research to support this idea, but Still exist). “Gender balance is a priority for most private colleges in the United States,” Sarah Harberson told me. He was the director of admissions and financial aid at Franklin & Marshall College and founded the online counseling service platform “Shenxuezu”. He said: “Regardless of whether it is fair or not, what candidates always yearn for most is a university with gender balance or nearly balance.”

Some schools try to beef up their athletic programs to attract male applicants. There are also schools that spend a lot of money to buy boys’ email addresses, or as long as boys fill in personal information on the school website, they can get some rewards that girls cannot get, such as free stickers or baseball caps. Sometimes schools also design promotional materials targeted at boys. Heath Einstein, director of admissions at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, happily said that they have a brochure called the “Bro Handbook” by students, which lists the school’s football team, rock climbing athletes and a group of students. Photo of a boy stuffing cake into his mouth. However, for many highly competitive schools, the easiest way to adjust the gender ratio is to manipulate the selection process. Admissions directors often secretly prioritize male applicants, in what critics decry as “affirmative action.”

| Preference will be given to male applicants |

The number of women pursuing advanced degrees surged in the 1960s and 1970s; in the early 1980s, more women than men were enrolled in college. This trend continued to increase, and by 1999, the admissions policies of some universities were clearly tilted in favor of men. At that time, the admissions director of the University of Georgia would automatically add 0.25 points to male candidates (out of 8.15 points) to maintain the gender ratio of 45% men and 55% women on campus. Non-white applicants can also add 0.5 points when applying to the school. That same year, three white women sued the University of Georgia’s school board for discriminating against them because of their gender and race. The district court hearing the case ruled that the policy was illegal, and the school appealed the race policy and abandoned the gender policy. Other state colleges and universities with similar policies have also taken warning.

In 2021, the “Duke Law Review” published an article in which law student Katie Lu explained that the school is worried that recruiting a large number of girls at once may make some male alumni no longer identify with their alma mater, and the school cannot live without it. their donations. From the school’s perspective, such a high female enrollment rate may make it more difficult to raise funds. After all, women will change their surnames after marriage. How can the school development department find them? In addition, the school is also worried about endangering academic integrity: the president of Princeton University once said that the fields of interest for women are different from those of men. If the school has to build another college for women, it may have to wrong men and “adult in” their academic courses. water”.

The “Accept” organization is committed to improving the fairness of American college admissions. Its executive director Mary Bigham said that before the epidemic, many schools no longer valued standardized test scores, so men had an advantage in admissions, comparable to the college entrance examination. Got 100 points on the test.

“When it comes to admissions, we do tend to want boys,” Saurav Guha said. From 2001 to 2004, he served as associate director of admissions at Wesleyan University. “We are a little more tolerant of boys than girls. For example, we say, ‘I’m not sure whether to recruit this student, but – we need boys.'” From 2004 to 2006, Carnegie Mellon University’s English Department Professor Jason England worked in admissions at Wesleyan University. He said that admissions sometimes made him sad, especially when he saw an outstanding young woman from a poor family lose out to a young man from a well-off family. “We all know that to achieve a 50-50 male-to-female ratio, we need to admit boys, and girls will have to suffer,” he said.

In order to create a balanced student body, the leadership of Wesleyan University still believes that in the selection process, even if it is necessary to give up a particularly outstanding girl and admit a boy with average qualifications, the ratio of men to women must be balanced. “Even if all of them were really good, you wouldn’t want them all to be violinists in an orchestra,” said Michael Ross, president of Wesleyan University, “because an orchestra has to have other musicians.”

Even after the University of Georgia lawsuit, some state colleges continue to favor male applicants, at least covertly. In 2008, journalist Peg Thiel recounted in her book The Trouble with Boys that Louise Hersh, the dean of admissions at the University of Delaware, told her: “Today, we and every other institution admit male applicants. Please take a closer look.” Hersh later clarified the matter, saying that the school would not admit boys who are much worse than girls, but said that in order to balance the gender ratio, it would take a closer look at the merits of male applicants. at.

In 2009, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission began investigating gender discrimination in admissions at 19 colleges and universities in the Mid-Atlantic region, but the investigation was terminated two years later on the grounds that the investigation team did not collect enough statistical data to conduct an accurate analysis. Some media commentators speculated that the investigation team may be afraid that this investigation will trigger a large-scale discussion on racial and gender affirmative measures.

Today, the Supreme Court has struck down racial affirmative action, banning public and private universities across the United States from considering race in admissions. However, colleges and universities can generally control gender ratios with peace of mind: Compared with racial discrimination, the Supreme Court has given all parties more room to maneuver in terms of gender discrimination. Even so, Einstein, the dean of college admissions, has heard representatives from some top schools discussing the possibility of excluding gender information from the application materials that admissions officers view. In most cases, admissions officers have a way of identifying an applicant’s gender, but this small but formal policy change could allow litigators looking for a suitable target to target other top schools. “These universities are doing everything they can to avoid lawsuits,” Einstein said.

| Developing sports to solidify gender stereotypes |

Admissions officers actually want to increase the number of men applying to the school rather than favoring male applicants in the final selection. This is both self-protection and a sincere desire to ensure fairness. Madeleine Lenier, director of enrollment management at a higher education consulting firm, advises clients: “If you want more people to apply to your school, focus more on the first half of the equation.”

As we all know, athletes have an advantage over non-athletes when applying to top schools because the school team needs to add players. The situation in other ordinary schools is just the opposite. They must first form a varsity team to encourage more males to apply for admission. “Colleges are increasingly eager to recruit boys, and forming male sports teams is one way to attract boys to apply,” Guha said. He is now the executive director of the Trinity College nonprofit Alliance for High Achievement and Success. This association is dedicated to helping students, faculty and staff of color succeed on campus. Colleges believe that varsity sports attract boys, which is why 73 colleges have added rugby teams in the past decade. The rugby team can accommodate more than 100 reserve players and attract other young men, even if they just like to watch the games and attend the parties in the parking lot after the games.

The study found that adding a football team did increase male enrollment in the first year, but the effect gradually diminished and lasted only about three years. And not every small liberal arts college can afford to field a football team. As a result, some schools are turning to sports such as men’s rugby and volleyball, which don’t require expensive hires of experienced rugby coaches, building stadiums and fielding large teams.

Schools’ efforts to attract male applicants may create a strange dynamic: the more men are scarce, the more male-focused schools become. “The big Division I schools, even if they have a big football team, they’re only a small percentage of the overall student body. But some of the smaller schools are different, if you have 2,000 students, 1,000 are men. people, 100 of whom are playing rugby, then the rugby players on campus suddenly account for 10% of the male students.” Guha said, “Add in other large teams, such as lacrosse and ice hockey, and the number of males participating in sports It’s even greater among male students. These movements create a certain identity and culture about what it means to be a man. I think that definitely creates an imbalance in campus life.” For example, Portland Fully 21% of the male freshman class at Louis Clark University in the fall of 2023 joined the football team.

Laurie Essig, a professor of gender studies at Middlebury College, believes that relying on sports to respond to the acute problem of low male enrollment is not ideal. “Patriarchy also harms men.” She said, “For example, we educate boys to put sports above all else.” Essig pointed out that schools using guaranteed sports to attract boys actually contribute to the problem they want to solve – – Focusing exclusively on sports at the expense of academic studies. What bothers her is that even at a prestigious school like Middlebury, athletes often miss class due to competitions or are too busy exercising to do even the most basic homework.

Guha told me that during his time at Wesleyan, he found that the school still expected female athletes to excel and participate in other interests. “But for men, it’s obvious that sports represented their value in society when they were young,” he said. “They base everything on athletic excellence and a lot of other things don’t matter. And everyone seems to They all think it’s okay.” A 2010 study looked at 84 Division III schools. It was found that the average academic performance of male sports students was lower than that of male athletes who were not sports students, while the average academic performance of female sports students was almost the same as that of female athletes who were non-sports students.

Colleges must avoid violating laws that guarantee equal educational opportunities for men and women, so one of the most popular new varsity sports on campus today is ostensibly gender-neutral: college esports. Esports teams compete against other schools in games such as Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Valorant, a tactical hero shooter. Another advantage of developing this project is that it is not expensive. An author on a gaming website wrote about the rise of e-sports projects: “Many schools reused old classrooms that were not used much, cleaned, renovated, and purchased gaming equipment. In the blink of an eye, e-sports training bases were built.” According to the National Collegiate Esports Association, about 500 colleges and universities currently have esports teams. Among the freshman class of 2022 at the University of Delaware, 54% are women. The following year, the school arranged for interested candidates to visit the high-tech e-sports hall located in the student center. The student tour guide led the team was full of pride when introducing the venue. In 2022, nearly $25 million in college esports scholarships will be awarded across the United States, and this amount is expected to continue to rise. The scholarship is theoretically gender-neutral, but in practice it mainly benefits and attracts men. According to the Esports Association, only 8% of collegiate esports players are women.
| What does it mean for girls? |

As women’s colleges have long promoted, being the majority on campus offers women many benefits, such as freer access to subjects typically dominated by men. Taking Tulane University as an example, the school is proud that the female students in the computer science department of the school account for 35% to 50% according to different grades. However, the highest proportion of female students in the computer science department of similar universities is only 25%. %. The school’s newspaper and magazine are also female-led.

Higher education consultant Jeff Schiffman worked in admissions at Tulane University for 16 years. He told me that Tulane had never actively tried to adjust the gender ratio. The school invested in a football team but did not have a men’s soccer or lacrosse team. “Gender balance has never been part of our planning,” he said. “Teachers believe that students are performing well and there is no need to make major changes.” However, Brian, managing partner of the college admissions consulting company “Ivy Counseling” Taylor said that based on their team’s research, Tulane admitted more boys than girls and that the school had “high barriers” for girls. “Tulane University is not the birthplace of the women’s movement.” He said, “They are also trying their best to play the cards they have.” Taylor said that compared to female applicants with mediocre grades, he encourages men of the same level to apply Tulane University. However, a representative of Tulane University told me that their school focuses on “equality of educational opportunity” and “it is pure nonsense to say that Tulane University has lower admissions standards or academic requirements for male applicants than female applicants.”

Mercedes Oren majored in communication and anthropology at Tulane University and edited a campus life magazine. She believes that the difference in performance between boys and girls in school is clear at a glance. She and her friends often mentioned that the male classmates in the class did not seem to work as hard as the female classmates. “Some boys come to class, just go through the motions, get a degree and leave.” Tyler Spear, a senior, said that Oren This view of boys was quite common at Tulane University, and she couldn’t help but feel aggrieved for those boys who had excellent grades. “It’s almost like reverse sexism,” she said. “I think the women at Tulane look down on the men a little bit. Sometimes they’re right, and sometimes they’re not.”

Although women outnumber men on college campuses and are winning more academic awards, some argue that men have unparalleled influence in college social life. In his 2015 book “The Economics of Dating,” business journalist Jon Berg made the point that “hookup culture” is commonplace on almost all college campuses, largely because of a serious imbalance in the ratio of men to women. He believed that in the absence of men, the rules of social life lay in their hands.

Several women at Tulane revealed to me that gender imbalance limited their choices, both in terms of the number of people to choose from and the types of relationships they could have. Emma Roberts, who is graduating from Tulane University in the spring of 2023, told me that she had discussed this issue in her gender studies class. “We all agreed that dating sucks.”

The women I interviewed at the University of Vermont said that just because there are more women, it doesn’t mean that there is a haven for feminism. “I’m shocked that there are so many girls in our school, but they still can’t escape the poison of male culture.” said a junior girl. One night in early July last year, I met her at an outdoor cafe near her school, and she and two of her friends spoke candidly about the unpleasantness of dating in college. They said boys at the school were “fussy” and “arrogant”. All three felt that they often compromised and by the time they graduated, they were no longer confident about what they had the right to demand in an intimate relationship. Compared with when they first entered school, these young women have become more mature and wiser, ready to enter society with the economic advantages that a bachelor’s degree brings. But for all their achievements, they took away a feeling from school that they unanimously described as “humble.”
| Who exactly needs care? |

To get more men to enroll in college, some researchers believe change needs to start in kindergarten. Currently, many middle- and upper-class families are allowing their sons to delay school entry for a year. Reeves, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, suggested that this program could be widely adopted by families with boys, regardless of economic class. However, he also admitted that having to pay for one more year of childcare would be a heavy burden.

It goes without saying that, no matter what the reason, if any large group loses the most effective upward channel, it will not be conducive to social development. This is why college leaders are actively thinking innovatively about how to recruit more male students, especially African Americans and Hispanics, who have the lowest college enrollment rates. “It’s never a good thing for society that young men feel like they have no future,” said Marjorie Haas, president of the Board of Independent Colleges. “That’s why the country has legislation to allow veterans to go to college or technical school for free.”

However, the issue of fairness in admissions to first-class colleges has also caused other problems: for equally outstanding students, first-class colleges are more likely to admit boys, and these colleges can directly lead to positions of real power, which in disguise blocks women’s employment. Ascending channel. For example, Brown University has an acceptance rate of nearly 7% for male applicants, but only 4% for female applicants. Jason Wingerton served as associate dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania and is now a senior admissions consultant at Ivy Counseling. According to his estimation, if most first-class colleges and universities with strict selection criteria did not select students based on gender, the ratio of male to female students would be close to 4:6, instead of being almost 50:50 as it is now.

Ross, the president of Wesleyan University, argued that a balanced number of men and women would create a better learning environment and prepare young people to enter the workplace. “Students may work and live in a mixed-gender environment in the future,” he said. “The imbalance between men and women in schools will affect students’ ability to adapt to the real world after graduation.”

However, in the post-school world that Ross describes, women still have trouble reaching the highest levels of power. They still don’t have enough seats at the top of companies, in boardrooms, in Congress, on the Supreme Court, or in the White House. If the affirmative action measures implemented by Wesleyan and other universities for many years really make sense, then those who need more care may still be young women. Even as Reeves, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, acknowledges that women still have not achieved gender equality at the highest levels, he argues that ensuring that top institutions have large numbers of men means more than creating a diverse learning environment. . “We don’t want people to think that getting good grades is contrary to masculinity,” he said. He worries that if people start to think that college is something only women should pursue, it will be difficult to reverse this perception.

How to protect women’s rights while addressing the concerns raised by Ross and Reeves is a complex issue for any school. But if it is made more open and transparent, it can at least stimulate more reasoned discussions. Emily Martin is vice president of education and workplace equity at the National Women’s Law Center. She said the discussion about affirmative action in the United States would be very different if the public knew clearly the advantages enjoyed by men. “There’s so much affirmative action that favors men today, but there’s still a lot of resentment from people who speak out for white men,” she told me. “When it comes to higher education, they’re attacking people based on race. affirmative action, to the pursuit of diversity, equity and inclusion, to gender studies programs, and so on.” Martin pointed out that at the very least, we should know when someone is pulling the weight of the scales, and for whose benefit.

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