New Data: Female College Enrollment Drops at Twice the Rate of Male Students
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Recently released data reveals gender discrepancies in the enrollment of college freshmen for the fall of 2022. A new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center shows that female students are opting out of enrollment at a rate more than double that of male students.
The research center found that across both four-year universities and community colleges, there was a decline of 1.3 percent in male freshmen enrollment, while female freshmen enrollment declined by 3.2 percent.
When comparing fall 2020 to 2022, there was an overall drop of 1.5 percent in college freshmen enrollment. It is worth noting that 90 percent of this decline consisted of students aged 18 to 20 years old.
Among college freshmen, the steepest declines for the fall of 2022 were observed among white, Asian, and Black students, who saw decreases of 7, 3.2, and 2 percentage points, respectively.
Catherine Brown, the senior director of policy and advocacy for the National College Attainment Network, highlighted the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women, particularly women of color and those from low-income backgrounds. She explained that women often took on the responsibilities of homeschooling, caregiving for children and parents, and looking after individuals with health problems during the pandemic.
Stephen Barker, the director of communications at OneGoal, noted that this caretaking trend affected young women, who were disproportionately responsible for caring for their siblings at home while their parents were working. Barker stated that these additional barriers prevented many girls from successfully completing their schoolwork and graduating from high school, ultimately hindering their path to college.
The research center found that there has been an overall decline of 4.2 percent in college enrollment since the fall of 2020 among all students. However, the rate of decline has slowed down and is now comparable to pre-pandemic levels. The data analyzed 42 states and revealed enrollment declines in 27 of them for the fall semester. While some states experienced increases, such as South Carolina, New Hampshire, and New Mexico, others like Alaska, Michigan, Kansas, Missouri, and Nevada saw the largest declines, ranging from 4.3 to 5.2 percentage points.
Barker added that the decline in female college enrollment among freshmen is a recently observed phenomenon that may take several years to recover from. He expressed optimism that as the economy recovers and the immediate need for girls to support their families diminishes, more women will choose to return to school.
Two female college freshmen who did enroll shared their experiences and acknowledged the impact the pandemic has had on their educational plans.
Caroline Holtman, a freshman engineering major at Texas A&M University, noted the significant gender disparity in her classes. She found herself severely outnumbered by male classmates, which posed a challenge for her in finding a community of female friends in her STEM classes.
Pooja Muthuraj, a freshman at the College of William & Mary, mentioned that the pandemic has influenced her perspective on what a balanced family life should look like. After witnessing her mother’s struggles in managing her career and family, Muthuraj, who plans to become a doctor, expressed concerns about the impact of dedicating a significant portion of her life to school and how it might affect her future family life.
Overall, the data indicates a decline in college freshmen enrollment, particularly among female students. This decline is attributed to the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women, as well as additional caregiving responsibilities that have hindered their educational pursuits. However, there is hope for a recovery in the coming years as the economy stabilizes and the immediate needs of girls to support their families lessen.
Instead, Muthuraj intends to follow a path in the field of health nonprofit organizations.
"It’s these choices that I probably wouldn’t have contemplated to such an extent if it weren’t for the pandemic," Muthuraj expressed.
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