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Why Are Women More Interested in Going to College Than Men?

Fewer male than female high school freshman and seniors say they want to go to college. What's the deal?

It's been a generation since the gender balance on campus began to shift in favor of the ladies. More women than men have been going to college since the 1980s; since 1996, more women have been graduating; and last year U.S. Census data revealed that women now earn more graduate degrees. According to a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics, the trend of women dominating higher education is going to continue.

Much of the data in this latest report confirms what we already know—more women than men end up enrolling in college and end up graduating. But, the data also reveals that female students are more likely than men to want to go to college and that disparity in aspiration starts early. Indeed, 59 percent of female high school freshman say they expect to complete a bachelor's or graduate degree, but only 53 percent of males say the same. By senior year everybody's desire to go to college is up (thankfully) but while 96 percent of female high-school seniors want to go to college, only 90 percent of males do.

Women are also more likely to translate their desire to go to college into action. Eighty percent of female high school students research colleges, compared to only 68 percent of men. And more female students than males (62 percent as opposed to 55 percent) "consulted college representatives for information about college entrance."

So what's behind the lagging interest men have in higher education? Last year a study from the Pew Research Center revealed that people believe a woman needs a degree more than a man in order to get ahead in the world. It's likely that boys are getting the sexist messages that drive this kind of thinking at a pretty young age. While we cheer wholeheartedly for the accomplishments of women, we also don't want to see a generation of men left behind. After all, gender doesn't inherently prepare us to be good citizens, be effective in the workplace, or solve the problems facing our world.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Rodney Martin

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