The Gender Gap in College Admissions

| Fri Jan. 29, 2010 7:12 PM EST

Women outnumber men in both applications to college and degrees earned, so much so that gender affords some male applicants the extra boost they need to gain admission. Is this practice fair? And more importantly, why are fewer men applying to and graduating from college? The Los Angeles Times gives an interesting take on these questions in this editorial. An excerpt: 

A 2007 analysis by U.S. News & World Report, based on the data sent by colleges for the magazine's annual rankings, found that the admissions rate for women averaged 13 percentage points lower than that for men. But percentages don't tell the whole story. It could be that the men were stronger candidates, or they might have applied in areas of engineering and science where women's numbers are still lower. But such justifications, even if true, are unlikely to fully explain these numbers. At schools such as the University of California, where admissions rely overwhelmingly on statistical measures of academic achievement such as grades and test scores, the disparities don't appear. Far more women than men applied to UCLA—the UC's most selective campus—last year. The university accepted about the same percentage of each, with a slight edge to the women. As a result, the freshman class has close to 800 more women than men.

In recent years, several college leaders have admitted that their institutions give a boost to male applicants to maintain gender balance on campus. Most students of either sex, they point out, prefer such balance. If Vassar accepted equal percentages of each sex, women would outnumber men by more than 2 to 1.

The dean of admissions at Kenyon College in Ohio, a formerly all-male school, brought the matter to broad public attention in 2006 with an Op-Ed article for the New York Times describing the dilemma of her admissions office. "What messages are we sending young women that they must . . . be even more accomplished than men to gain admission to the nation's top colleges?" Jennifer Delahunty Britz wrote.