Study: Women gain more from college education

Women could be getting more money for their college education than men, according to a recent study.

The study, which followed a group of recent high school graduates from 1992 to 2000, showed that women who earned an undergraduate degree made 8 percent to 24 percent more than women who only completed high school.

The men in the study showed no significant gains from obtaining an undergraduate degree.

University of Maryland education policy and leadership professor Laura Perna, who conducted the study, said she completed the study in search of an explanation for the higher college enrollment rates for women than for men.

Men might complete a cost-benefit analysis and decide college is not worth it, she said.

University enrollment rates for spring 2004 show 52 percent of undergraduates are women.

Perna said women still don’t make as much money as men.

“On average, women are earning less than men, but women who get a (Bachelor of Arts degree) or (Associate of Arts degree) are getting a bigger payoff,” she said.

University academic adviser Kitty Jones said the study “flies in the face” of everything students have been told about earnings after college.

“It’s amazing the way you can get distorted results from these kinds of studies,” she said.

But Perna said the results only reflect the eight-year time period after high school graduation.

“It could be that at that level, women are making a direct entry into employment and men are still in a transition period,” Perna said.

“Maybe there is a greater payoff for men that comes some time after,” she said.

Charlie Nutt, associate director of the National Academic Advising Association, said the study results are contrary to every study he has read.

“Most studies clearly indicate that a person’s income level over their lifetime is significantly affected by their education,” Nutt said.

He said the study probably reflects that women generally get lower-paying jobs out of high school and the greater increase shows that they close the gap after going to college.

But Jones said the study does not explain the differing enrollment rates between men and women.

“I doubt that any human being would analyze their decision to go to school based on a study like this,” she said.

“One of the upsides of going to college is that you gain the critical tools to look at a study like this and realize that it is just a representation of one set of people,” Jones said.