The Shortage of Men Going to College

The Shortage of Men Going to College September 30, 2021

A college degree has long been the ticket to the middle class, to the professions, to leadership in society.  It looks like most of those slots in the American elite will soon be occupied mostly by women.

The percentage of men going to college as compared to women has dropped to record levels.  Today, 60% of the students in higher education are women, with men constituting a minority of 40%.  And the gap seems to be widening.

In fact, even when men go to college, they graduate at a significantly smaller rate than women do.  After six years (which allows for those who need more time to finish a typical four-year degree),  65% of female students graduate.  Only 59% of male students do.

In a few years, according to one expert, “two women will earn a college degree for every man.”

These numbers are reported in the Wall Street Journal in an article by Douglas Belkin entitled A Generation of American Men Give Up on College: ‘I Just Feel Lost’, with the deck “The number of men enrolled at two- and four-year colleges has fallen behind women by record levels, in a widening education gap across the U.S.”

The phenomenon of more women and fewer men getting a college education is evident across all racial, geographic, and economic levels and across all types of schools.

The question is, why?  And what does this mean?

Does this herald a complete gender role reversal, with women taking over the professions, the government, and society as a whole, and men taking a subordinate role, as women did prior to the rise of feminism?  Some women would consider this to be a triumph of social justice, the victory of feminism over “male privilege.”

Or is it a good thing for men to forego the expense  of college, not to mention the leftist indoctrination that dominates higher education today and that has sent the level of learning it provides plummeting?  Are young men realizing that it is possible to make a good living without a college degree, so that they are simply acting rationally?

That may apply to some men, but the articles on the subject suggest some other reasons.

Educators are certainly worried about the gender gap.  A CNN report on the subject quotes an expert who says that the male dearth in higher education means that we are producing too many of “the most dangerous person in the world: a broke and alone male.”

That view of “toxic masculinity” on the part of a (male) college professor may be a clue.  In the ideology that dominates most college campuses, men are demonized.  Young men may want no part of joining a community where they may be expected to do penance for their male privilege or risk having their lives ruined by false sexual harassment charges.

But that is not the full story either.  The Wall Street Journal article interviewed a number of young men who said “no” to college.  A common theme seemed to be a lack of ambition, purpose, and drive.

“I would say I feel hazy,” said one 23-year-old who lives with his mother. “I’m sort of waiting for a light to come on so I figure out what to do next.”

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” said a 19-year-old who started an online college class but quit after three weeks because he felt confused and frustrated. “I just feel lost.”

Career and educational counselor Ed Grocholski says, “What I see is there is a kind of hope deficit.”

The article also makes this point:  “Social science researchers cite distractions and obstacles to education that weigh more on boys and young men, including videogames, pornography, increased fatherlessness and cases of overdiagnosis of boyhood restlessness and related medications.”

It would seem that the gender gap in higher education is one symptom of a larger problem:  our society devalues masculinity, to the detriment of boys and young men.

That’s the thesis of Christina Hoff Sommers in her book The War Against Boys: How Misguided Policies are Harming Our Young Men, which goes into detail about how this is happening and what the consequences are.

Photo:  Tulane Public Relations, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

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