It’s not surprising to anyone who spends time on college campuses today that universities enroll fewer men than women. Men throughout history dominated the ivory tower, but as women’s enrollment drastically increased in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the tide shifted.
As of 2013, 9.8 million women were in post-secondary institutions, while men were at 7.7 million, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
The disappearing college male
Financial considerations are one of the major reasons why many young males are skipping college.
Tuition is at its highest ever, and with student debt surpassing credit card debt, it’s understandable why some may choose to opt-out of the financial burden that comes with college.
“If you don’t want to go to college, you can go to a trade school and come away with something and not be on the hook for $150,000,” said Adam Stark. The 28-year-old told the Denver Post that he dropped out of college and is currently thriving in Denver’s music scene.
What’s the ROI?
In today’s economy, the return on investment, or ROI, is not as good as it used to be for a college education. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that men with college degrees see less of a financial return than women with college degrees. Male, white, and Asian college graduates have seen a significant decrease in their earning power, making the cost of college less appealing for these potential students.
For many men, an expensive degree program is also unnecessary for their career trajectory. With unemployment at 4.3 percent, it’s easier to get a job now than it was 10 years ago. Men are able to obtain entry-level positions, especially in technical fields, with higher salaries compared to others that require a college education.
The successful dropout?
Some even argue that individuals such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg all became extremely successful without a college degree. Education consultant and blogger Daniel Riseman says that, “As a result, they enter college with little sense of purpose and end up failing out.” As well, “While these dropouts imagine they can succeed without a degree, successful start-ups are rare.”
Aside from a financial standpoint, emotionally, some men aren’t ready to tackle the culture of the college campus.
Some men carry unresolved psychological issues due to harsh gender roles in our society. Being more likely to commit suicide or act in violent behaviors, there’s an absence of emotional discussion and support for males — especially during their adolescence.
This can lead to a lack in encouragement for men to apply to school, as some may feel unqualified because of unsettled feelings. With college cultures typically more focused on women and the social health of campus life, men can ultimately feel excluded from the college experience as whole.
There are several factors that can contribute to why the United States has seen a shift in the number of males enrolled in postsecondary institutions. Most of them are related to financial concerns — millions of men across the country understandably doubt the correlation between a pricey degree and a high-paid career.
As demographics continue to favor growth in women attending and graduating from our institutions of higher learning, we should celebrate all of the progress in gender equality in America. However, we shouldn’t lose sight of the ultimate goal of diversity in higher education — everyone, regardless of gender, should be represented on our college campuses.
Making college more affordable and reforming curriculum to prepare students for the real-world job market might be what’s needed to convince this generation of the value of a college degree.
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