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Female-to-male gap smaller at UI than elsewhere

BY MATT STARNS | NOVEMBER 09, 2011 7:20 AM

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The University of Iowa's male to female enrollment ratio is more balanced than the national trend, statistics show.

American female enrollment in higher education was significantly higher than male enrollment in the World Economic Forum's 2011 Global Gender Gap report. But at the UI, the gap is less sizable.

The report showed 58.38 percent of American college students are female and 41.62 percent are male, a trend that the United States shares with many other developed nations, including Canada and the United Kingdom.

However, the UI's gender gap in 2011 was less than the reported American total — with 51.4 percent female, 48.6 percent being male.

But UI Registrar Larry Lockwood said the disparity still exists.

"For all the time that I've been here, it's been more women than men," he said, and he believes women are generally more prepared for higher education as young adults. "They are more mature, they understand where they want to go, and they're ready to go to college."

Laura Perna, a University of Pennsylvania professor of education, said an increasingly competitive job market may be driving more women to higher education.

"One thing that's happened is women have needed to have higher education in order to have access to jobs," she said. "I think part of what's going on is a difference in labor market opportunities that have been presented to women."

Perna said she believes many women may be pursuing a college education in an effort to be more marketable to employers.

"I think it's clear how important postsecondary education is for the jobs that are going to be available in the next decade," she said.

But experts said the gap might not just have to do with an increasingly competitive job market.

"We see a pretty big difference between girls and boys graduating high school in the United States," said Catherine Hill, the director of research for the American Association of University Women. She said high-school graduation rates are one cause of this gender gap.

"In the U.S., we see that women are more likely to graduate from high school," she said. "That makes it a lot easier to apply for colleges."

Hill also said the gap might be due to trends in minority males' high school graduation rates.

"Among Asian-American and white males, we still see high rates of high-school graduation," she said. "Largely, it's the African-American and Latino boys and young men who are not graduating, whereas African-American and Latina girls have seen some improvement in terms of high-school graduation and college admissions."

Hill, like Lockwood, said this trend isn't new. "This has been true for some time," she said. "Since 1982, women have been a majority on college campuses." She said the new numbers reinforce a change in the higher education system.

"We did have a period in our history where many more men went to college than women," she said. "Now, the populations of colleges are changing, it's more diverse."


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