The gender gap in higher education

Boys are lagging behind their female counterparts in higher education.

by Nasser Mussa

In the last few decades, the number of American adults pursuing higher education has increased significantly. This has led to the expansion of facilities among the institutions of higher education to provide educational services.

A recent study released by Northwestern University shows that the nation’s post-secondary educational institutions awarded 2.4 million degrees between 1999 and 2000 compared to 1.9 million in the 1990s .

But most of these degrees went to females while few were awarded to males.

With the increasing number of college-degree recipients, the study also shows growing gender disparities in which boys have been lagging behind their female counterparts in enrollment and graduation rates.

Historically, most college classrooms have been dominated by males, but that role has since reversed as women flocked to universities in record numbers at the turn of the century. This progress is continuing to grow — women are projected to constitute 59 percent of the nation’s undergraduate- and 61 percent of the graduate-student population by 2020.

I observed this in most of my classrooms, particularly in the College of Liberal Arts, and noticed that most of my classmates are female. Study after study shows that “at every level of degree attainment, the rate of increase in college degrees awarded was several times higher among females than among their male counterparts”. 

Though the issue of a gender gap is well-known, the reasons why boys are lagging behind their female counterparts have remained obscure. However, in the long run, the gender disparities in higher education may also translate to a gender imbalance in the workforce and other demographics, including wealth and income.

It’s great that many American women have been making significant progress particularly in education, contrary to its historical upbringings. At the same time, it’s also important to analyze why males, despite historical privileges, are not investing in higher education and themselves with a similar ferocity women are showing today.