NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The College Gender Gap

June 25, 2002

Women outnumber men among college students in the United States, and they are graduating at high rates. This may portend higher earning power for women than men in coming years.

Men account for 51 percent of the nation's college-age population. However, high school graduation rates for men are now slightly lower than for women, and male students make up the vast majority of those enrolled in special education classes.

  • Female college enrollment overtook male enrollment in the late 1970s, and by the early 1980s, women began outnumbering men among four-year college graduates.
  • Since then, the number of female bachelor's degree recipients has risen to 698,000 this year, or about 57 percent of the total, according to U.S. Department of Education estimates.
  • The number of male college graduates has increased much more slowly, to 529,000.
  • The gap is even greater among minority college students -- only 40 percent of Hispanic college graduates are male, and two African American women earn bachelor's degrees for every man.

Women began making substantial educational improvements after the passage of Title IX, the 1972 law that barred sexual discrimination in educational institutions that spend federal money. But researchers say the growing disparity between the sexes reflects not just the increasing success of women but also the educational problems of men.

College Board data indicate that more female students than male students are enrolled in high school academic or college prep programs, that girls are more likely than boys to take high school honors courses in most subjects and that girls report having higher academic aspirations than boys.

Source: Michael A. Fletcher, "Degrees of Separation: Gender Gap Among College Graduates Has Educators Wondering Where the Men Are," Washington Post, June 25, 2002.


Browse more articles on Education Issues