Where the boys aren’t: A look at the ratios of males to females on campus

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2016/02/26/where-the-boys-arent/

When it comes to undergraduate higher education, American women outpace their male counterparts, including at area colleges.

In 2012, women on campus outnumbered men 57 percent to 43 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.  In 2014, American women nationwide between the ages 25 to 34 were 20 percent more likely than men to be college graduates.

The trend toward female-dominated campuses has been steadily increasing since the early 1970s. In 1967, the percentage of women attending college was 29 percent. By the 1980s, the ratio was fairly evenly split. By 2023, the U.S. Department of Education predicts that there will be three women on campus for every two men.

According to Linda Sax, a professor in the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies at UCLA: “The gender gap favoring women in college enrollments first appeared around 1980 and has continued to widen over time. The most significant widening of the gender gap occurred in the 1980s, with relatively smaller increases in the gap since then.”

Gender ratios and local colleges

These are, of course, national averages, and the disparity is smaller at many area colleges.  Tufts University in Medford, for example, and Holy Cross in Worcester, boast small (but not insignificant) gender gaps – both schools have a population that is 51 percent female to 49 percent male.

The disparity at Boston College in Newton is slightly larger, with approximately 53 percent female students and 47 percent male students. At Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island the current student body is 52 percent female and 48 percent male.

But some area colleges suffer from particularly acute imbalances.  At Providence College in Rhode Island, the percentage of male students in the graduating class of 2015 was only 41 percent, and at Boston University, the class of 2015 was only 40 percent male. 

Two Cambridge, Massachusetts colleges, however, buck the national trend:  Harvard has an undergraduate student body that is 53 percent male and 47 percent female; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is approximately 55 percent male and 45 percent female.

Gender ratios at Boston colleges
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Female imbalances and campus culture

Jon Birger, the author of “Date-onomics,” argues that even smaller disparities can have a major impact the power structure on campus. Birger, who spoke at the C-Space in downtown Boston Feb. 24, wrote in Time Magazine last fall that “when women are in oversupply—as they are today at most U.S. colleges and universities—men play the field and women are more likely to be treated as sex objects.”

Birger argues that the lack of men on campus on campus not only exacerbates the hookup culture, but also leads to higher rates of sexual assault and rape. Citing studies by sociologists Nigel Barber and Robert O’Brien, Birger points to elevated rates of sexual assault as a predictable feature of communities where women are over-represented.

Manhattan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald studies trends in higher education and believes that the ratio is a sign of a broader issue in American society.

Progressive education politics in K-12 are not necessarily well-suited to the way boys engage in school,” she said in an interview with NewBostonPost.

“I just don’t think that boys are necessarily are getting educated to the same extent … I think males are just doing more poorly in society compared to females.”

On campus, Mac Donald says, men might be overwhelmed by “rape culture hysteria” and lack of encouragement to succeed.

“If I were a boy reading about college, with campaigns against males, the feminist takeover of the administration, the dominance of Title IX administrators – that to me is not necessarily an appealing environment.”

Colleges adapt

A survey of admissions directors released in 2011, and reported by CBS News, found that many colleges and universities are attempting to remedy the imbalance of women to men on campus with affirmative action-like policies.

“Men are being admitted with lower grades and test scores,” said Scott Jaschik, editor of “Inside Higher Ed,” which conducted the survey. “While a lot of people don’t like to talk about it, a lot of colleges are basically doing affirmative action for men.”

Birger notes that, in 2014, Brown University, accepted 11 percent of the their male applicants compared to 7 percent of their female applicants, according to U.S. Department of Education data.

Writing in the Washington Post in 2015, Birger noted that elite colleges receive applications “from many more qualified women than men and thus are trying to hold the line against a 60 to 40 ratio of women to men.

“Were Brown to accept women and men at the same rate,” Birger continued, “its undergraduate population would be almost 60 percent women instead of 52 percent—three women for every two men.”

Harvard’s Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons, however, told the Crimson in 2006 that Harvard does not and will not factor gender into the admissions process.

“Certainly, I would anticipate that Harvard would never set any qualification for any individual based on gender. It would really run against the idea that we should be admitting the most talented individuals,” he told the student paper. “It really would be tragic to turn down someone more talented because she happened to a be woman.”

Contact Kara Bettis at [email protected] or on Twitter @karabettis