Good and Bad News on Postsecondary Gender Gaps | Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence
Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence

Good and Bad News on Postsecondary Gender Gaps

After our recent analysis of postsecondary trends, a good friend asked how the results look when results broken out by gender. That’s an important question, because the trends pretty consistently show more intense change –good or bad—for male students.

Male students showed better gains in earning credentials

From 2015 to 2019, Kentucky public postsecondary education succeeded in increasing the numbers of students earning undergraduate credentials, and did so by accelerating male success even faster than female success, with gains of 19.4% and 8.2% respectively.

That narrowed gaps by gender for all students and the pattern of success also worked for Black students, Latino students, students of two or more races, and White students. That kind of pattern, with growth for all and added growth for those who have been underserved, is how Kentucky can be build excellence with equity if we keep these trends going.

Male students lost ground on enrollment

In the same years, enrollment has declined, and the decline has been sharper for male students (down 10.5%) than for female students (down 3.9%).

Looking at Black students separately, the losses were worse for male students than for female students—and the same was true for White students.

Looking at Latino students, there were enrollment increases, but those gains were smaller for male students than for female students. For students of two or more races, there was a matching pattern of unequal growth.

Gender-linked challenges ahead

Both for individual opportunity and for our shared future as a commonwealth, Kentucky needs rising attainment for both male and female students, starting form a clear understanding that male students have been behind both on enrolling and on completing credentials in recent years.  The improvements on credentials are an important success, but we will not be able to sustain that success if we continue to see the enrollment losses.

As the news of 2020 –pandemic and recession- threaten to reduce enrollment further, Kentucky will especially need robust commitment to support college-going and college completion.

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