Six Years Later, a Wider Gender Gap and Similar Explanations

July 12, 2006

The American Council on Education issued an updated report on Tuesday that presents a new look at the gender gap in higher education, six years after another report raised questions about whether the gap meant there really was a crisis in male enrollment (The Chronicle, November 3, 2000).

The new report, like the earlier one, suggests that the gender gap is really more a function of disproportionate gender imbalances in certain age, racial, and socioeconomic groups that, taken together, pump up the female numbers or depress the male statistics over all. Traditional-age male students declined from 48 percent to 45 percent of the total in the eight years ending in 2003-4, but that’s largely because, among low-income white and Hispanic students, women were substantially overrepresented, the report says.

The statistics will be familiar to readers of last month’s “Condition of Education” report from the U.S. Education Department (The Chronicle, June 2).

The report, “Gender Equity in Higher Education: 2006,” also argues that male students are enrolling more than ever before, but still in insufficient numbers to catch up with female students, whose enrollment is growing fast, particularly among nontraditional-age students, a category in which women outnumber men nearly two to one. A news release issued by the council quotes the report’s author, Jacqueline E. King, as saying that “women are making gains in college participation and degree attainment, but their gains have not come at the expense of men.”

Copies of the report may be ordered for $26.95, postage paid, on the council’s Web site.