New Report Highlights Growing Gender Gap in Higher Education

By Catherine Groux
Posted August 29, 2012 02:00 PM

Today, women are more likely to earn a college degree than men.
Today, women are more likely to earn a college degree than men.
Last year, new data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed that among the employed population age 25 and older, women are more likely to hold a bachelor's degree than men. To some, this data came as a surprise, but according to a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the gender gap in higher education is prevalent in many ways. The report shows that not only are women now more likely to earn postsecondary degrees than men, but they are also more apt to do the following:

Attend College

In 2009, NCES researchers asked ninth-grade students about the highest level of education they planned to achieve. Their findings revealed that while 59% of females said they hoped to earn a bachelor's or graduate degree, only 53% of males said the same. 

Receive Financial Aid

After deciding they want to earn a degree, most students must then consider how they are going to pay for it. In this aspect of the college process, women also seem to have a leg-up over men. According to the report, during the 2007-2008 school year, while 82% of women received financial aid, only 77% of men could say the same. 

Enroll in College

As women are more likely to consider pursuing higher education, it only makes sense that they are also more apt to actually enroll in a degree program. In 2010, about 47% of women between the ages of 18 and 24 were enrolled in college, compared to 39% of men. In fact, every year since 1980, females have outnumbered males when it comes to college enrollment.

Be Engaged in Their Education

After enrolling in college, the study shows women are more apt to become engaged in their schools and academic experience. For instance, while 77% of women who began college in 2003-2004 said they sometimes or often met with an adviser during their freshman year, only 72% of men said the same. Additionally, while 37% of female students participated in clubs during their first year of college, only 33% of male students said they did so.

Persevere Through College

After tracking students' progress throughout their academic journey, the NCES found that female students are also more likely to persist in school and earn a degree. Overall, about 49% of college students who began school in 2003-2004 earned a postsecondary credential by June 2009. For females in particular, this figure stood at 52%, while it was only at 46% for males.

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