The Collegiate War Against Men
While many have commented on the eight year decline in college enrollments in the United States, no one, to my knowledge, has noted that most of that fall in the number attending college in the past four years is concentrated among men. Between 2015 and 2019, according to the National College Clearinghouse, the number of men on campuses declined by 691,643, almost double the smaller fall among women, 348,955. In percentage terms, the male decline of 8.34 % was far more than double that among women, 3.18%.
Women have for decades outnumbered men in America’s colleges. In 2015, there were 32% more women than men, but now the differential is nearly 40%. For every five men, there are seven women. The fundamental question is why —not only do far more women attend college than men, but why is the differential growing noticeably in the past few years?
While several factors may be at work, I think at least part of the reason is a perception among males that colleges dislike them —or at least do not like them as much as women. There are several forms of discrimination against males that are increasingly turning men off to the collegiate experience. They don’t like being second class citizens.
Some forms of gender discrimination are seemingly rather mild and well intended. For example, noting male domination of enrollment in some of the STEM disciplines such as engineering and mathematics, some schools have created Women in Science scholarships, research grants, or the like to encourage more women to enter these fields. Curiously, though, I do not see attempts to right the gender imbalance favoring females in most other disciplines, including some relatively high paying fields like nursing (where roughly 90 % of graduates are female).
But the past decade has seen many examples of more blatant maltreatment of men on campus. The U.S. Department of Education’s 2011 “guidance” in sexual assault cases led to colleges pursuing brutal, and in my judgment, un-American, Spanish Inquisition type actions in sexual assault cases. Males accused of sexual assault were often denied opportunities to cross-examination accusers, were denied effective use of legal counsel, often denied the right to present exculpatory evidence, and sometimes judged by the very persons prosecuting them. KC Johnson’s book with Stuart Taylor, The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America’s Universities, outlines scores of cases of injustices directed exclusively towards men. And the number of judicial decisions favoring males poorly treated in college Kangaroo Courts has soared in recently years.
Still other forms of discriminatory treatment exist caused by school administrators heavily influenced by progressive identity politics. Most notorious perhaps has been Harvard’s attack on “single-gender social organizations,” especially fraternities. The university president declared such organizations violated “our deeply rooted gender values.” Harvard once did have “deeply rooted gender values” when it would not let women attend. But that went by the wayside roughly a half century ago. As I noted last February, who decided these new “gender values” for Harvard and why are men discriminated against because they want to belong to a social club of guys?
To be sure, other factors are at work as well. Males are far more likely to be incarcerated than women, and thus denied access to higher education. I expect the rise of public assistance payments over the last 80 years has reduced the especially critical male economic role in families — now women can survive financially with their children without a male present, as the government will provide income. Who needs a man? The number of women workers soon will pass the number of men. College still confers some financial advantages on workers —-and more and more, those workers are women.
The move by the Trump Administration’s Department of Education away from supporting dubious disciplinary procedures in sexual assault cases, along with the growing judicial backlash against unjust decisions, may trigger a reversal of the anti-male environment. But for now, some men increasingly feel they are treated like inferior members of the campus community. Thus more of them are going to work in private sector jobs where identity politics working through “diversity and inclusion” policies are less pervasive.
Richard Vedder is author of Restoring the Promise: Higher Education in America.