By Mary Beth Marklein, USA TODAY
October 19, 2005
As the numbers of college-going males dwindle, gender is a consideration in maintaining diversity. But admissions officials are cautious in their approach.
At Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., admissions officials gave a nudge to males on the margin for several years, which helped increase the male share from 36% in 1999 to 45% in recent years, says Robert Massa, vice president for enrollment. At the same time, it tried to boost its male applicant pool by marketing to males, playing up sports opportunities and even choosing bolder colors in recruitment brochures.
Now, with enrollments reflecting national trends, preferences are less common, he says.
At Swarthmore College near Philadelphia, where the male/female ratio is roughly 48/52, admissions dean Jim Bock says he doesn't admit less qualified males over female applicants, although female applicants outnumber male applicants. But if the freshman class looks lopsided, he might turn to males on the wait list to help balance the class, he says.
Other schools put less emphasis on all applicants' ninth-grade academic performance as a way to give boys a better chance.
"A lot of boys, they just bloom a little bit later," says Bruce Poch, admissions dean at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., which last year received three applications from girls for every two from boys. It admitted a smaller share of females — 17% vs. 24% for boys — which helped it maintain a student-body ratio of roughly 50/50.
Poch says Pomona doesn't hold males to a lesser standard, but he says an admissions preference at some point for males is not unthinkable. "If (enrollments) were to suddenly be 65/35, one way or another (a preference) would be a very reasonable question."
Not all schools say gender imbalance is a concern. "I don't want to say people don't notice," says Sanford Ungar, president of Goucher College in Baltimore, where the male/female breakdown is roughly 32/68. "We're just not hung up about it."
While the imbalances are most pronounced on liberal arts campuses, they also show up at large public flagship schools. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has a male/female ratio of 42/58, while the ratio at the universities of Delaware, Georgia and New Mexico hover around 43/57.
Echoing the words of other admissions officials, University of Delaware admissions director Louis Hirsh says, "We're not about to take an unqualified male over a qualified woman."
But he would take notice of males showing interest in majors such as teaching or nursing, where they are underrepresented. Similarly, females applying to engineering programs would grab his attention.
"I think people would say there really is a compelling social interest in having both genders equally represented in those disciplines," he says.