Though it has been commonly held that more women were attending and graduating from college than men, a new study by the American Council on Education (ACE) found that an apparent gender balance has developed.
“Gender Equity in Higher Education: 2010,” the third follow-up study of its previous 2000 and 2006 counterparts, discovered that the trend in women pursuing a postsecondary education more often than men has all but vanished. Evidence now indicates a shrinking of the gap, with statistics for males increasing steadily for all demographic groups except Hispanics.
Jaqueline King, author of the three studies spanning the last decade, traced the subjects from high school graduation to college entrance and then to attainment of a baccalaureate degree.
“Up until this year, all we’ve seen is a disproportionate growth in the number of men failing to seek higher education,” King said. “But now it suddenly seems as if that gender gap is leveling off and disappearing.”
King, also the assistant vice president of ACE’s Center for Policy Analysis, pointed to the 9 percent degree attainment rate for Hispanic males – lower than that of any other group. King added that many Hispanics simply had less preparation for college, citing 62 percent of Hispanic males having graduated from high school, compared to nearly 90 percent for all other races.
However, the study also found that Hispanics native-born in the U.S. performed drastically better at all education levels in contrast to those born abroad.
“It’s a bit of lightness in the dark,” King said. “It’s heartening to see that there may be an explanation for this discrepancy, [although] we don’t yet have the information [regarding whether] those that immigrated here actually utilized our education system or that of their country of origin.”
Johnathen Duran, the Cross Cultural Center’s Chicana/o community intern, highlighted what he saw as one of the primary causes of the prevailing gender gap.
“We live in a very patriarchal society, where the men are looked at to work and provide for their family,” Duran said. “And especially for [the Hispanic] community, these gender expectations are extremely reinforced.”
Duran, a fifth-year senior community and regional development major, said that the ACE study still offered some good news, referencing a 2005 UCLA study entitled “Leaks in the Chicana and Chicano Educational Pipeline” that found only roughly 27 percent of Mexican-Americans were continuing toward some form of postsecondary education after high school.
Duran also said that as the majority of Hispanic families were poor and working-class, they lacked the access to necessary resources for college preparation. Even those that did enroll in four-year institutions were not receiving enough aid in the form of recruitment and retention efforts, according to Duran.
“It all comes down to the expectations we have for this community,” he said. “What are we giving back? What resources are we providing for these kids to achieve the expectations we’ve set? We need to find a way to ensure that these [factors] coincide with one another.”
Arabela Mendez, a sophomore international relations and Spanish double major, agreed with Duran, insisting that Hispanic males needed to be “educated” about the potential value of higher education to combat the traditional values that send a contradictory message.
“In order to support one’s family at more than just a subsistence level, getting a higher income [is necessary],” Mendez said. “Education is not only instrumental in [achieving this], it is an end in itself.”
Elvia Gonzalez, a former UC Davis psychology student who recently transferred to Solano Community College, expressed surprise at the study’s findings and doubt regarding the assertion that Hispanic culture discouraged men from attending college.
“Our [cultural traditions] dictate that women should be taking care of the family and that there is no time for college,” Gonzalez said. “However, there is a group of us who want to prove that we can be more than just a housewife and that motivates us to continue our education.”
King admitted that there was likely interplay of various complex factors contributing to the existing Hispanic gender gap, but maintained hope in a solution.
“Hispanics are receiving a differential return on education,” King said. “Society is sending these young men and women mixed signals. Education is supposed to be the great equalizer. It’s time that became true for all Americans.”
KYLE SPORLEDER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.