Male Enrollment Increasing At Community Colleges

Compiled By Staff
January 13, 2010

Some community colleges are reporting that male enrollment has equaled or exceeded female students for the first time in many years.

Inside Higher Ed reports that at Tidewater Community College in Virginia, male enrollment rose 16 percent this past fall compared to one year ago, while female enrollment went up 11.5 percent. Overall, women make up 61 percent of the college's enrollment.

"This is the first time in a very, very long time that male growth outpaced female growth," said Deborah M. DiCroce, president at Tidewater, who was quoted in Inside Higher Ed. "I think that there is no way to separate what we're looking at here from the realities of the economy. This is clearly the reversal of a trend we've seen for years."

Other community colleges that reported a similar trend to Inside Higher Ed included Randolph Community College in North Carolina, where first-time full-time male enrollment rose a dramatic 68 percent from fall 2008 to fall 2009. Additionally, Lower Columbia College in Washington said that during the same time period, new full-time male enrollment increased 36 percent.

Ironically, the report comes just one month after the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights announced an investigation of 19 four-year colleges and universities to determine whether admissions officials unfairly favor male applicants. According to The Washington Post, women now outnumber men in higher education by about 60-40 nationwide, primarily because men are more likely to drop out of school, join the military, or go to prison. As a result, some institutions have tried to create a more balanced student body by admitting more male applicants.

But such is clearly not the case at two-year institutions. There, the spike in male enrollment may very well be the result of the economic downturn, which generated layoffs in industries that primarily employed men. MSNBC reported in November that nearly 75 percent of people who lost jobs in the recession were men. Consequently, say higher education officials, men are thus more likely to enroll in colleges to update their job skills.

Other schools attributed the growth in male enrollment to the new GI Bill. Lisa Kleiman, director of institutional effectiveness at Tidewater, told Inside Higher Ed that last semester, there were more than 1,300 students enrolled at the college who received benefits from the bill, and 62 percent of them were male.

But other experts were unsure if the growth in male enrollment indicated a clear trend. "I've heard reports saying that current unemployment is hurting males more than females, so it's not surprising that some would note major male increases," noted Ken Phillippe, director of research at the American Association of Community Colleges, who was quoted by Inside Higher Ed. "There's a relationship between education and the economy. To what extent this may be a one-time thing or a larger change in male enrollments, I'm not sure."

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