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What Does It Mean With Fewer Male Students On College Campuses?


The numbers in a recent USA Today editorial are powerful: At the close of the 2020-21 academic year, women made up 60 percent of students on two- and four-year college campuses — an all-time high.

U.S. colleges and universities had 1.5 million fewer students a year ago, compared with five years ago; and men accounted for 71% of that decline in a school-year ravaged by the global pandemic.

USA Today reported that the education gap, which holds at two- and four-year colleges, has been widening for 40 years, and that holds true in Nevada, where gender percentages mirror those nationally.

“When you talk about students that are male, that are not necessarily attending college, the question is really multifaceted,” said Ramona Esparza, vice president of the Public Education Foundation’s Leadership Institute of Nevada. “There are a lot of layers to this … especially when we look at students of color, that are maybe first-generation college students.”

Among the issues are whether male students see enough role models in the classroom growing up, how relevant is what’s being taught, and addressing financial challenges of continuing education.

“We do know that there is a national conversation that's been particularly prevalent over the last couple of years about whether there is a true ROI or return on investment for going to college,” said Nancy Brune, executive director of the Guinn Center. “We know that tuition rates have been increasing, but family incomes have not been increasing as much as tuition, and so there is a national conversation about whether there's any value to getting a college degree.”

Brune said the gap between genders has been growing but specific causes are hard to pinpoint.

“This is not something that's just occurred over the last few years. I think the media and social scientists are starting to pay attention to it,” she said. “From what we can gather, social scientists don't have answers. There are a lot of hypotheses, but there's much more research to be done in this area.”

Nevada State Board of Education President Felicia Ortiz said to remember the picture reflects women getting ahead as well as men lagging.

“Us women in education have been pushing for this for years and years, right, we wanted to level the playing field,” she said. “The next key piece to that is leveling the pay.”

Nancy Brune, executive director, Guinn Center; Felicia Ortiz, president, Nevada State Board of Education; Ramona Esparza, vice president, Leadership Institute of Nevada

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Dave Berns, now a producer for State of Nevada, recently returned to KNPR after having previously worked for the station from 2005 to 2009.