At the end of the 2020-21 academic year, 59.5 percent of college students in the United States were women.
Men accounted for only 40.5 percent of those in higher education.
And it’s not that men has lost their access to higher education. Admissions officers are not keeping men out of the college classrooms. Men are simply choosing not to go.
The reasons for this disparity are varied and uncertain, and many are worried. Stories in the media have described this shift in enrollment numbers as “alarming,” “concerning.” and “disturbing.”
But here is what I know:
In 1971, the year when I was born, women couldn’t legally obtain a credit card in their own name.
In 1971, women were frequently and legally fired from their place of employment for getting pregnant.
In 1971, women couldn’t serve on a jury in all 50 states.
In 1971, women could be legally raped by their husbands since spousal rape wasn’t criminalized in all 50 states until 1993.
Also in 1971, 57 percent of students enrolled in college were men, compared to just 43 percent who were women.
These numbers have essentially reversed over the course of my lifetime.
I wonder if the words “alarming” and “concerning” and “disturbing” were used to describe female college enrollment in 1971. I can’t say for sure, but my gut tells me no. If women couldn’t own their own credit cards or refuse sex with their husbands, I hardly think female enrollment in higher education made the list of most concerning issues at the time.
So yes, it’s important to understand why young men are rejecting higher education in greater numbers than ever before. It’s crucial to know why advanced degrees no longer appeal to men as they once did. It’s critical that we figure out why young men are struggling in school like never before.
You need not look hard to see what a bunch of disaffected, angry, uneducated men are capable of doing.
But maybe we can also celebrate the fact that women are kicking ass, too. Making up for years of repression. Getting their bite of the apple at last.
Women are still earning just 82 cents for every dollar that a man makes, so until those numbers are closer to being equal, I think women should do everything in their power to rise up, reach for the brass ring, and do everything in their power to gain the upper hand.
I would prefer a world with more women in positions of leadership and power. I would love to see more women find seats at the table. I would love for women to find the equity that they deserve.
Frankly, I don’t think this college enrollment trend is necessarily a bad thing at all.