Alexis Jade Fergurson
High school graduation may be one of the biggest stepping stones in a young adult’s life. One is faced with a free world of new options and endless possibilities. Whether that be to enlist in the army, set up one’s own business, or apply to a four year university, youth are challenged to exercise what they have learned. However, when applying to college, more females seem to be interested.
According to the United States Department of Education, the male to female ratio in college campuses is quickly becoming disproportionate as less and less men comprise the applicant pool of prospective university students.
Colleges and some universities, such as the University of Mary Washington, recognize the importance of attaining a more balanced gender ratio among the student body.
Kim Johnston, dean of admissions at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, said the school’s title gives the impression that it is an all-women’s college. According to Johnston, the population of 4,300 undergraduates is about 65 percent female and 35 percent male. The school wants the ratio to be more balanced.
“We try to work on the images we present in our publications,” Johnston said. “We are very aware of presenting a gender balance just to make sure people know who we are.”
Johnston said Mary Washington tries to obtain gender diversity in the same way it attempts to create racial, ethnic and geographic diversity.
Questions arose regarding the significance of diversity in classrooms and whether admissions officers should place meritocracy before gender dynamics. However, preserving diversity on campus is far more important than academic qualification.
According to Michael Barron, director of admissions at the University of Iowa, there has been a consistent 44:56 male to female ratio throughout his twenty years working at UI. Similarly, Karen Parker, director of admissions at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, asserts that young males only account for 38 percent of the current applicant pool. Recent studies from the American Council on Education conclude that women represent approximately 57 percent of enrollments in American colleges since at least the year of 2000.
Though at times highly comparable female applicants may be rejected, admitting more male applicants to match females is important for preserving the gender ratio. Although many of these measures seem contradictory to an American meritocracy, the importance of restoring gender balance on campuses must override that of academic qualification.
In order to attract more males to join the applicant pool, universities must construct internal marketing campaigns that appeal to the male population. Colleges have already tried to include a range of racially diverse students, such as African or Mexican-American students alongside Caucasian students, on the fronts of their brochures. Why must gender appeal be diminished from this arsenal of admissions strategies?
An equal amount of men and women can result in contrasting point of views. One of the most troubling characteristics of a class predominately run by one gender or the other is the stifling of intellectual progress. Just as one’s diverse ethnic upbringing influences one’s divergent perspectives, one’s experiences as a male or female can shape his or her beliefs. As much as people may want to perceive otherwise, men and women, though they belong to the same species, face different experiences along the course of a lifetime.
Different experiences manifest different perspectives. Thus, without a classroom environment in which diversity of thought is promoted, students’ exposure to a broad horizon of views will be restricted and thus their academic potential will be undermined. If the purpose of a university is to challenge students to defy popular opinion and come into contact with perspectives contrary to their own, then the imbalance of male to female students should be a major concern.
Because of a long history during which males have been upheld more rights than women, many young men who refrain from college applications have already had it given to them. They have been born into a culture which feeds them the illusion that they do not have to work hard to achieve success.
Affirmative action is important when seeking to increase the amount of males on college campuses. No doubt, we live in a society in which progressive ideologies have emerged on the political landscape and moved civilization toward a more gender-inclusive tradition. Feminism is important when combating misogyny and patriarchy. However, we must not forget the rest of the population, the men who fight alongside women for their rights and must take into account the struggles which males have faced as well.
Though it is a well known fact that both genders have been given the equal opportunity to apply for colleges, more females actually apply and attend institutions of higher education. Both men and women have the potential to achieve academic success. We must encourage more young men to enter academia and recognize that both genders are equally intellectual.