The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Girl problems? Women outnumber men at Mac

By Jakob Wartman

Macalester is currently experiencing a trend that is sweeping the nation: females outnumbering their male counterparts on college campuses. Women are outperforming and out-achieving men in high school and more and more are finding their way into the college classroom.

At the start of the 2005 school year, males accounted for only 42 percent of Macalester’s full-time student body-a ratio that seems to have become the norm in recent years. Since 1995, Macalester’s student body has been at least 55 percent female.

“I have been doing admissions long enough that I remember when we needed to consciously appeal to women,” Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Lorne Robinson said. “Now, if anything, it is the exact opposite.”

The trend has affected all college campuses struggling to maintain an even male to female ratio. Men, who in 1970 represented 58 percent of the national undergraduate student body, are now the minority at 44 percent, and demographers predict that by 2009 only 42 percent of all graduates will be male.

Liberal arts colleges in particular have seen the extremes of this trend. Macalester’s peer colleges vary, but many are around 40 percent male.

Low male enrollment is also a problem affecting major universities, both public, such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison (45 percent male) and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (40 percent), and private, including Loyola University, Chicago (34 percent).

However, colleges with business and engineering schools have been able to buck the trend and attract significantly more male applicants than colleges without these programs, Robinson said.

Colleges have a vested interest in keeping a fairly even male to female ratio because disproportionately female student body can lead to less interest for both males and females in the campus, Kenyon College’s Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jennifer Britz wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times.

The trend continues to pose a problem for Macalester, which from 1995-2004 ranked 29th out of its 34 peer colleges (excluding all women schools) for male enrollment, sitting between Grinnell and Oberlin.

“We’ve always shot for about 40 percent [minimum for male],” Robinson said at the Mar. 10 Board of Trustees meeting.

“It will be more challenging this year,” Robinson said in an interview. “We have 500 more applicants [than last year], almost all female.”

Females are achieving more than males on the high school level and counselors are noticing that it seems that all academic awards are going to females. Statistics show that females are more likely to take upper level courses, AP tests, and be more engaged in the high school experience, Robinson said.

To further add to the trend, men are commonly neglecting a college education to enter the workforce for the promise of high earnings. But according to the U.S. Census Bureau, males over 25 with a college degree earned over $17,000 more than those without.

Males are also facing problems with completing high school and problems with the law. According to USA Today, males are a third more likely than females to drop out and there are nearly as many men of any age in jail, on probation, or on parole (5 million) as there are in college (7.3 million).

The trend may have its start years earlier in childhood education and this is being explored by many education experts.

“Many males that start school feel physiologically bad about themselves,” said Diane Connell, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Programs in Learning Disabilities at Rivier College. “About 10 years ago no one cared because they caught up, but now instead of catching up they are quitting and saying school isn’t a priority.”

The reality is that male applicants are becoming rarer and are becoming more valued in the application process, wrote Britz, Kenyon’s Dean of Admissions.

“The elephant that looms large in the middle of the room is the importance of gender balance,” Britz wrote. “Should it trump the qualifications of talented young female applicants?”

Even with this societal shift, many students don’t see the ratio as a problem or even realize the disparity.

“I guess I have never thought or cared about it,” Mike Allen ’09 said. “But now that I think about it there are more females in most of my classes.”

A major complaint at Macalester came from females who cited a lack of “available” males—with 300 more women than men on campus of 1,800 this doesn’t come as much of a surprise to many.

“[The ratio] will have huge implications, we need to deal with this in the schools.” Connell said. “Females have had many helping hands for the past thirty years. Now we have to do this for males in kindergarten, first, second, and third grade.”

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