Acknowledging the gender gap of college enrollment


Philip Zoppi – General Assignment Reporter

Southern has 8,133 undergraduate students and 60 percent of them are female. This might seem odd, but is actually very common in the United States.

In fact, it is very rare to ever see more males than females in any public university. According to Forbes, Utah is the only state with more males than females in its public universities.

Richard Riccardi, the associate vice president for institutional effectiveness at Southern, is not surprised at all that Southern has such a ratio of females to males.

“What we’re experiencing is actually common throughout the United States, and it is often referred to as the 60-40 gender gap in higher education, as many institutions see females comprising 60 percent of their student population,” said Riccardi.

College enrollment has not always been like this. Pew Research conducted a study that actually showed in 1994, men had the same, if not more students enrolled in college than females.

By 2012, all of that changed. College enrollments for both genders improved, but females outpaced males by 13 percent. The Pew Research study speculated what is causing females to attend college at a higher rate than males.

Scholars have said it could be economic factors or possibly a behavioral thing among males. Whatever is causing the trend, it is not expected to stop.

Riccardi has a theory for why this is happening at Southern. Riccardi feels like a lot of the reason females outnumber males at Southern is due to the programs Southern offers.

“Some of the gender discrepancies can also be attributed to specific programs that schools offer, and I think that’s a contributing factor at Southern,” said Riccardi.

Some of the programs Southern offers, like social work and human services, tend to be female-dominated.

Riccardi does not see the female to male ratio changing much because of these programs.

“A large portion of our entering freshman class are interested in becoming nurses, a predominantly female field of study.  At the graduate level, 2/3 of the programs are in the schools of education and health and human services, where many of the disciplines like education and social work tend have to have a greater percentage of female students,” said Riccardi.

Theories on why this change is happening at colleges around the United States are all over the place. Forbes pointed out that since 1970, the female enrollment rate has slowly been taking over males and that is not expected to change.

Forbes also found it is not just public universities like Southern that this shift is happening. It started with just public universities, but soon private universities found females taking over the student body.

As mentioned before, Utah is the only state that has more enrolled males than females in college. Forbes found that Alaska had the lowest percentage of males and most females out of all the states.

The statistics can be shocking when first seen but this trend has been going on for more than 30 years now and shows no signs of stopping.

Other schools ratios of males to females may change but this is less likely at Southern due to the programs that the school is currently offering.

Photo Credit: Staff Photo

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