Many Colleges Reject Women at Higher Rates Than for Men
Females graduate from high school at a slightly higher rate than men and are more likely to forgo the workforce for an advanced degree. All of these factors help explain why the percentage of women in higher education has been steadily growing: From rough parity in 1980, women made up 57 percent of the 16.6 million American college goers in 2006. By 2010, the Department of Education expects the ratio to be around 60 to 40. In other words, that thumb on the boys' side of the admissions scale will have to press much harder in the coming years to keep those male dormitories at the University of Richmond and other campuses across the country fully populated.
The academic success of women should be good news, especially considering the fact that just a generation ago women were barred from some of the country's best universities: Boston College, Johns Hopkins, the University of Virginia, Brown, Dartmouth, Notre Dame, and Harvard weren't fully coeducational until the 1970s. (Men, meanwhile, were barred from Radcliffe, Barnard, and Smith, among others.) The problem is that while women have made dramatic progress, men have not kept pace and are now increasingly outnumbered in higher education.
At the universities that attract the most applicants, balancing the boy and girl enrollment numbers appears to happen naturally based on the admissions data. At Harvard University, for example, the pool of more than 22,000 applicants has remained equally divided between men and women, meaning that both sexes are admitted at an equalif dauntingly low9 percent. Harvardagain, a relative newcomer to coeducationhas seen its percentage of female undergraduates increase steadily over the past decade from 46 percent in 1997 to 49 percent in 2006. Princeton, Stanford, Rice, Duke, and Yale Universities are in the same boat; ditto for the elite liberal arts colleges such as Amherst, Williams, and Middlebury.
Where girls face the biggest challenge is at small liberal arts colleges, like the University of Richmond and Kenyon College in Ohio. An op-ed entitled "To All the Girls I've Rejected," published in the New York Times last year, set the college admissions world atwitter when it outlined the reality of what most officers had been seeing for years. "The fat acceptance envelope is simply more elusive for today's accomplished young women," wrote Jennifer Delahunty Britz, the dean of admissions at Kenyon, which, according to the U.S. News data, is not even among the schools that most heavily favor boys in their admissions process.
An hour's drive east of the University of Richmond, the College of William and Mary also is altering its admissions rates to achieve gender balance, if not parity. In the past decade, the school's portion of women in the undergraduate body has fallen from 60 percent to 54 percent. Overall, because of the rising number of students applying to colleges, the admissions rates for both men and women at William and Mary have plummeted, from 51 percent for men and 43 percent for women in 1997 to 40and 26 percent in 2006. But over that period, men had an admittance rate 12 percentage points higher than their female counterparts had.