For nearly 350 years, men outnumbered women on most of America's
college campuses. But today some observers say undergraduate males
are becoming an endangered species.
It's clear why Frank Nash, the admissions director at Bloomfield
College in Bloomfield, N.J., might feel that way. Only about 30
percent of the college's 1,800 students are men.
Mr. Nash's mission is to narrow that gender gap. So at college
fairs, Nash has started touting Bloomfield's beefed-up technology
curriculum, athletic scholarships, and a new cross-country team.
His media blitz features a pitch about friendly professors and a
life-changing diploma - wedged between head-banging songs on a rock
'n' roll station.
"We're trying to get guys working at Home Depot to realize that,
without a degree, they're stuck at the checkout counter," Nash says.
Bloomfield's guy gap is bigger than that at most schools. But
such efforts to reach out and draw more men to campus are becoming
increasingly common, underscoring an emerging trend: Gender parity
is a new priority.
Little research exists about the impact of a gender balance on
learning. Yet since the gender-segregated walls of the Ivy League
came down in the 1960s, the idea has gained status as a key
component of a diverse, intellectually vibrant campus. Beyond
academics, it is an expected part of campus social life.
For much of the past three decades, the focus has been on
bringing more women onto campus. But now, as the female majority
grows at colleges across the United States, administrators are
being forced to confront the gender equation on campus in a new
way. Schools are scrutinizing how they assess applicants, as well
as how much - if at all - they should tinker with campus
demographics where women are fast-becoming a distinct majority.
Where have all the young men gone?
Debate over the gender gap's severity in recent years has
targeted its size and scope.
According to the US Department of Education, the national
proportion of male undergraduates (at more than 4,000 institutions)
is 44 percent, with 7 million women and 5.5 million men on campus.
By the end of the decade, that figure may drop to 42 percent.
Bachelor's degrees awarded to men have fallen to about 44 percent
from 51 percent in 1980.
The Monitor analyzed admissions data from 1,006 coeducational,
four-year colleges and universities. It reveals that the gender gap
is pervasive across institutional types. (See chart below.)
At 83 percent of the schools, men on average represented 43
percent of the student body. But at a significant minority of
institutions - nearly one-third - 40 percent or less of
undergraduates were men. And at three-quarters of the overall group
of schools, fewer than half of freshman applicants were men.
The gender gap is far worse at historically black colleges and
universities and in other minority groups, experts say. Among
African-Americans enrolled in college, 62 percent are women compared
with just 37 percent men.
The impact of this shortfall varies greatly from campus to
campus. It may be almost unnoticeable in large campus crowds, or
immediately obvious in a history class.
Where it is more evident is around the edges, maybe changing the
tenor of class discussions or making it easier for men than women
to find a date.
Ask Jamie Kelly about being one of the 40 percent of male
students at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Penn., and he laughs.
"It is not a big problem in class," says the senior English
major. Still, he admits that dating on the campus can be "an odd
situation," where it is "much harder to find an unattached guy than
an unattached girl."
Like Bloomfield College, Dickinson is among the 31 percent of
colleges that have 40 percent or less undergraduate men, as well as
fewer male than female applicants. …