Men Represent an All-Time Low 40 Percent of College Students, Report Says

By GQ Pan
GQ Pan
GQ Pan
September 8, 2021 Updated: September 8, 2021

The number of men enrolled at two- and four-year colleges has fallen behind women by record levels, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

For the past 2020-2021 academic year, women made up an all-time high of 59.5 percent of the overall student population, while men trailed at 40.5 percent, the Journal reports, citing data from the National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit research organization that provides nationwide coverage on college enrollment.

The report is consistent with data analysis by Clearinghouse last year (pdf), which stated that while enrollment in higher education in fall 2020 fell by more than 461,000 students compared to the fall of 2019, the decline among men (5.1 percent) was more than seven times as steep as the decline among women (0.7 percent).

More women also applied to college than men for the ongoing academic year of 2021-2022, with 3,805,978 female compared to 2,815,810 male applicants. That’s nearly one percentage point higher than the gap from the previous academic year, according to the Common Application, the nation’s most popular online college application platform.

This gap between the two sexes in college enrollment numbers has been widening for 40 years, the Journal reports. Douglas Shapiro, executive director of the research center at Clearinghouse, told the Journal that if this trend continues, two women will earn a college degree for every man within the next few years.

When race and income are taken into account, men still lag behind women in college enrollments, with poor and working-class white men often enrolling at lower rates than black, Latino, and Asian men in the same income group, according to an analysis of census data by the Pell Institute for the Journal.

Some colleges are taking affirmative action for men in an effort to redress the imbalances, according to the report. At Baylor University in Texas, for example, seven percentage points more places have been offered last year to men than women, who account for 60 percent of undergraduates. The university has also been running a campaign for years to boost applications from high school boys.

That being said, many schools and colleges are unwilling to join the effort, in part due to fear of being criticized for using their limited resources to support white men, who historically enjoyed better access to higher education than women and other underrepresented groups.

“As a country, we don’t have the tools yet to help white men who find themselves needing help,” Jerlando Jackson, the department chair for Education Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Education, told the Journal. “To be in a time when there are groups of white men that are falling through the cracks, it’s hard.”

GQ Pan