Campus History

Student Watch

That’s a question universities across the country, UW–Madison included, have been asking for more than three decades.

According to Tom Mortenson of The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, women began to outnumber men on American college campuses starting in 1978, and the disparity has been growing ever since.

Reasons for the trend include these factors among male students: lower literacy scores in elementary and secondary schools, less participation in non-athletic extracurricular activities, and less college preparation in high school. Not surprisingly, these details catch the attention of college admissions officers when evaluating prospective students. Also, joining the military or the work force after high school are options that appeal more to males. Even doing prison time takes more males than females out of the running for college admission.

Although the UW’s gender split — 51.8 percent female — isn’t as uneven as the national average of 57 percent, it’s still an interesting trend, given that forty years ago, men outnumbered women as college students by 16 percent.

Published in the Winter 2010 issue


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