Spread the Word Around, the Boys Aren’t Back in Town

It might be every guy’s dream, but the widening gender gap in higher education that began in the 1980s seems to have no end in sight, a worry of some college officials.

Billy Wong/Guardian
Female students outnumber males at UCSD by 4 percent, slightly lower than the national average. Women comprise comprise 57 percent of college students across the country.

Female students make up the majority at UCSD, comprising a record 57 percent of the freshmen class and a 52 percent average for all undergraduates. Nationally, undergraduate females make up about 56 percent of students at four-year universities, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The University of California has a slightly higher average, with 57.1 percent of enrollees, overall, being women.

According to Assistant Vice Chancellor of Admissions and Registration Mae W. Brown, the gradual decline of male enrollees at UCSD began as early as the mid-1980s, but was clearly evident in the early 1990s.

UCSD’s Student Research and Information Office showed a slight 51 percent male majority in 1994. But by 1999, enrollment of women reached 52 percent and has remained constant since then.

The UC system is seeing more and more female applicants, with a constantly smaller pool of qualified males for the universities to pick from, according to Brown. Even with only slightly higher standardized test scores and comparable grades, females have managed to overtake males in the UC applicant pool.

Over the past decade, the university has become more female-friendly through statewide legislation, including Proposition 209, which barred discrimination and preference by gender.

Passed in 1996, Proposition 209 effectively ended affirmative action. Along with Title IX of the federal Higher Education Act, which requires equal spending on both male and female sports, the door for females opened in higher learning institutions, Brown stated.

The gender imbalance could manifest before the application process. Even as male students nationwide continue to do as well as their female counterparts, nearly 12 of every 100 male students drop out some time in their high school career, compared to only nine of every 100 females, the Education Department reported.

Data are mixed in female enrollment in typically male-dominated fields. Biology departments have seen a decline in female enrollees from 1994 to 2004, though biology remains the most popular major for females at UCSD. Meanwhile, economics is now the second most popular major for women, nearly doubling in enrollment from 1994.

The Department of Education estimates a 60 percent female majority in higher education by 2010.