Declining male enrollment could have long-term effects

GW, which has a freshman class that is 43 percent male, is one of a growing number of schools experiencing a decline in male enrollment – a trend that one study says could result in a smaller skilled labor force and an overall reduction in economic growth.

For the last five years, the number of men in the freshman class has fluctuated between 41 and 45 percent, said Kathryn Napper, director of Undergraduate Admissions.

GW is not alone in experiencing a growing gender gap. New York University boasts a 61 percent female freshman class, American University is 64 percent female, 57 percent of Emory University freshmen are women, and Georgetown University is 54 percent female. The trend of more women in college has been developing over the last few decades, Napper said.

“The phenomenon of having more women attend four-year institutions is not new,” Napper wrote in an e-mail last week. “In fact, for example, women have been in the majority of those taking the Scholastic Aptitude Test since the early 1970s.”

Napper attributed the college gender gap to the individual features of each school, including the “location, size and prestige; the breakdown of majors … and the presence of big-name athletics.”

Last week students participated in a roundtable discussion on the declining presence of men on college campuses.

The R.E.A.L. Conversations event, hosted by the Student Activities Center and co-sponsored by the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, asked about 20 students why women in academia have begun to outnumber their male counterparts. While participants tossed out several speculative reasons, they all agreed the declining presence of men is a trend noticeable just by walking down the street at GW.

Sociology professor Ivy Kennedy said in an interview that she sees the issue a little differently, claiming the trend is “not necessarily a decline in males, but an increase in women (attending college).”

“Historically, the lack of education has been a tool used against women, and once access to education opened up, women took it seriously,” she said. “They are applying, being accepted and graduating in bigger numbers.”

According to a 2003 report by Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies, women in every major age, race and ethnic group “now enroll in college, persist in college and graduate from college at considerably higher rates then men.” According to the study, in 1979 men and women had roughly the same graduation expectations, but by 1997 women were “significantly” more likely then men to graduate from four-year institutions.

According to the report, the declining presence of men in academia doesn’t bode well for the social and economic future of the United States. The “weaker educational attainment among men” will result in a smaller skilled labor force and an overall reduction in economic growth.

The study also shows that men who seek college degrees earn higher incomes, bolster political democracy and are more likely to be married and living with their spouses and children.

“(In high school) many males focus on sports and bank on athletic scholarships, but then their grades don’t stack up and they can’t go anywhere,” junior John Muller suggested at the forum Monday.

Grace Henry, assistant director of SAC, attributed the trend to the “breadwinner syndrome.”

“Men go directly to work because they need to make money,” she said. “They need to provide for their families.”

Despite the long-term effects outlined in the Northeastern study, many schools don’t actively recruit just men during the admission processes. But students at Monday night’s discussion came up with some of their own ideas to attract men to GW. The most popular plan: creating a GW football team, an idea that will not come to fruition.

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