The percentage of women in higher education has exceeded the number of men for more than a decade, and the disparity is growing.
The U.S. Department of Education reported that 8.4 million women, compared to only 6.7 million men, were enrolled in college in the year 1996. The Department projected that, by the year 2007, the numbers will grow even more disparate — 9.2 million women and 6.9 million men.
At prestigious liberal arts colleges, the between male and female enrollment is especially wide, and some schools are actively seeking to increase the percentage of male students by redesigning the image of their colleges to appear more “masculine,” adding new majors which are thought to appeal to men, and placing greater emphasis on sports and internships.
Some schools have even designed unofficial preference programs for men. Arthur Levine, president of Columbia University’s Teachers College, told the New York Times, “Probably nobody will admit it, but I know that lots of places try to get some gender balance by having easier admissions standards for boys than for girls. Recently, at a school where I was giving a speech, I asked ‘How far down the list are you going for boys?’ and the answer was ‘All the way.'”
Former women’s colleges are also having trouble finding qualified men. Vassar College admits less than 40% of women, but over half of male applicants. Vassar director of admissions David Borus said “Because we want to try and have some gender balance, I think there is a bit of a mindset that may be a bit more generous to the men.”