In many U.S. colleges and universities, female students have been outnumbering their male counterparts. In an interview for VOA News, Donje Gates, an 18-year-old from Chicago, Illinois, mirrors the sentiment of many young men pondering whether college education is a valuable investment, or if alternative options like trade school might be a better choice.
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- U.S. colleges and universities, like Malcolm X Community College, are making concerted efforts to increase male student enrollment, which has been decreasing annually.
- These institutions have initiated mentorship programs and targeted support, yielding promising results, especially among minority groups like African American males.
- Societal perceptions of masculinity and academia often hinder these efforts, with some educational officials doubting the necessity of specialized assistance for male students.
The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center data reveal that women now constitute about 58% of U.S. college undergraduates, highlighting a consistent shrink in the male student population.
Turning the Tide
To address this trend, some institutions like Chicago’s Malcolm X Community College have been striving to attract more male students. “About 75 percent of the school’s students are women,” according to the VOA News report. They have been especially attentive to increasing retention rates among Black male students, who were noted to be dropping out at higher rates than other demographics.
To this end, Malcolm X Community College initiated a mentoring program linking a teacher or another school employee with two Black male students. The school’s president, David Sanders, reported a significant success of the program: “93 percent of the men in the mentoring program stayed in school,” while previously, “Forty-three percent of Black male students dropped out between the fall of 2021 and the spring of 2022.”
Despite these encouraging numbers, Sanders acknowledges the hurdles: “There’s an expectation for a male,” he said. “He’s supposed to be strong and not show weakness,” indicating some men’s reluctance to seek academic help.
The gender gap in higher education extends beyond metropolitan areas and into regions like the Appalachian Mountains. Berea College in Kentucky reports 18% fewer male students compared to 2019 and is currently trying to engage more males from nearby areas.
Rick Childers, who leads the school’s Appalachian project, notes how outdated notions of masculinity could deter men from pursuing a college education. He recalled how his father would use the term “college boy” in a derogatory manner, emphasizing the challenge of making college appealing to young men brought up with such attitudes.
The Need for More Focus on Male Students
Professor Ioakim Boutakidis of California State University Fullerton noted that some educators and officials do not see the need for special support for male students, considering that men already have more societal advantages than women. However, he argues, this attitude overlooks the reality that men of color are less likely to attend college than their white counterparts, thereby requiring focused attention.
Some colleges have begun acknowledging this issue and are making efforts to support groups like the African American Male Education Network and Development (A2MEND) program in California’s large community college system.
Increasing Diversity in Academia
The call for increased diversity extends to college staff as well. Amanuel Gebru, vice president of student support at Moorpark, a California community college, and president of the A2MEND board, suggests hiring more Black professors. This suggestion aligns with the fact that only 7% of faculty members at American colleges are Black, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, while the U.S. population is 13.6% Black.
Benefits of a Diverse Gender Ratio in College Classrooms
Recognizing the value of gender balance in academic settings is crucial to understanding why the dwindling number of male students is a matter of concern. A balanced gender ratio in college classrooms can promote a variety of benefits:
- Improved Learning Environment: A diverse classroom, inclusive of varying genders, allows for a broader range of perspectives. This diversity enhances class discussions and enriches the overall learning experience.
- Promotes Equality: A balanced gender ratio in classrooms can help bridge gender gaps and promote equality. It encourages students to interact with and respect opinions from both genders, thereby fostering an environment of mutual respect.
- Enhanced Social Skills: A mixed-gender environment allows students to develop improved social skills and understanding, preparing them for future professional environments that are likely to be diverse.
- Reduces Gender Stereotyping: Balanced gender representation can help debunk harmful stereotypes by showcasing the capabilities of both genders in an academic setting.
- Influences Career Choices: Exposure to diverse peers in college can shape and broaden students’ career perspectives, eroding the traditional barriers of gender-specific careers.
By promoting an equal and balanced environment, colleges and universities not only enrich the academic experience but also help shape a more inclusive society.
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