Posts published in June, 2013

Males Continue To Lag Behind Females On College Attainment: No Solution In Sight

Education gap

Men are less likely to enroll in universities and are also less likely to receive a degree, with women currently earning 58% of bachelor’s degrees and 62% of postsecondary occupational certificates. (Donna Grethen / Tribune Media Services / June 10, 2013)

June 11, 2013

In the ongoing discussion of how to boost the education and skill levels of the American workforce, one central issue is rarely addressed: the gap between male and female achievement. The reality is that the slowdown in U.S. educational gains is predominantly a male affair, and one that drags down the overall competitiveness of our workforce and workers’ ability to land (or create) good jobs.

To get more Americans working and set economic growth back on track, we need to understand what’s going on with men in education.

Despite rising college costs and the many other challenges facing America’s schools, women have made extraordinary strides in education. They have overtaken men in high school and college completion in the last few decades, earning 58% of bachelor’s degrees and 62% of postsecondary occupational certificates.

Our research has found that if men had the same educational distribution as women, their earnings would be 3.7% higher than they are and more men would be employed. Bridging the education gender gap is central to increasing America’s competitiveness in the world economy.

The educational shortfall of men has two important components. First, men are less likely to enroll in colleges and universities. Second, even when they do enroll, they are less likely to obtain a degree or certificate.

Why? One prime reason is young men’s poorer grades in middle and high school (despite performance similar to women’s on standardized tests). A second factor is that young men are more likely than women to prioritize work over college when their short-term job opportunities are relatively good or their educational debt is relatively high.

The underinvestment in education by adolescent boys and young men stems in part from out-of-date masculine stereotypes. Such things as a strong attachment to school, a feeling of closeness to teachers, an excessive interest in high academic achievement or a fondness for art or music are viewed by many young men as unmasculine.

In a recent survey of American 15-year-olds, 73% of adolescent girls expected to work in managerial, professional or higher technical jobs, versus only 53% of the boys. Boys were much more likely than girls (9% as opposed to 2%) to expect to make their living as athletes or work in other sports jobs or as musicians. Too many boys expected to be military officers, police officers or firefighters relative to demand, and boys were more likely to respond vaguely or not at all to the question of the job they expected to have at age 30.

Overconfidence leads to unrealistic career expectations and poor planning. In the same survey, remarkably few boys expected to be working in the lower-level production or service occupations, even though nearly half of their fathers held such jobs. Unfortunately, boys’ rejection of “bad jobs” did not mean they had made plans to enter skilled occupations that require higher levels of schooling.

Relative to women, young men also have unrealistically high expectations of financial success. A pre-recession Gallup poll found that an astonishing 58% of 18- to 29-year-old young men thought it was “somewhat” or “very” likely that they would someday be rich.

For many boys and young men, the changing world is a conundrum. They want better jobs than their fathers have, but their attitudes toward school and work are misaligned with the opportunities and requirements in today’s labor market. Many boys seem to think they will be successful — career-wise and financially — without having any idea about how they’ll achieve that success.

This misalignment is made worse in the U.S. by a lack of clear links between academic courses of study and the skilled, well-paying jobs that actually exist in the labor market.

In Germany, the famous dual system of company and school training allows students to understand how their studies will translate into jobs. It provides 350 specific occupational certificates that provide entry into skilled occupations; about 40% of young German women and 52% of young German men complete training in one of these paths. Other young Germans complete full-time vocational school or get a university degree. The United States, with its high and disproportionately male college dropout rates, compares poorly to the German record.

It’s clear we need to encourage adolescent boys to adopt expectations in line with the job market, and to free themselves from anti-academic male stereotypes. If they can be helped to better understand the connection between doing well in school and getting a good job, they might see reasons to work harder in middle and high school. Clearer pathways from courses to credentials and from credentials to careers would further enhance the rates of success for men as well as women and make for a more competitive America.

Thomas A. DiPrete is a professor of sociology at Columbia University and former scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation. Claudia Buchmann is a professor of sociology at the Ohio State University. They are the authors of “The Rise of Women: The Growing Gender Gap in Education and What it Means for American Schools.”

Report Supports “Adequacy” As New Concept For Community College Funding

The Century Foundation has released a report, Bridging the Higher Education Divide, with recommendations of great importance to the Latino community and others that rely on community colleges as the gateway to higher education. The report recommends “adequacy” as a standard for community college funding, which would shift financing from a focus on equal access to equal outcomes. The report encourages equity advocates in states with constitutional guarantees to an education to consider law suits to press for more equitable funding. Adequacy based funding would allocate funds to students with the greatest need. If the adequacy standard were to be used by policy makers, Latino students and communities would benefit from an infusion of funds into Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), which do more than their share to serve lower income communities.


CUE endorses the adequacy standard, and has called for it previously.However, law suits are a resource-intensive proposition, which may exhaust considerable political capital at a time when equity advocates are pressing forward on access to college and financial aid for undocumented students.  Bridging the Higher Education Divide makes additional recommendations that may be more politically viable and that may be more effective in garnering resources to support Latino student success.


The report’s recommendation to strengthen transfer pathways resonates with the goals of the federal Title V HSI-STEM programs, which will invest a billion dollars in community to four-year college transfer programs by the end of the decade. The report’s recommendation to attach expectations for performance accountability to new funding is timely, as faculty, administrators, and legislators in many states are currently engaged in crafting new accountability strategies.


ACT Examines Postsecondary Work Readiness For High School Students

A new release ventures into territory that is largely uncharted: postsecondary work readiness standards and benchmarks. While many now have a grip on what college readiness looks like, comparable standards for work readiness-the skills involved in workplace success-are less well understood. According to the author, work readiness skills are foundational and occupation specific, vary in importance and level for different occupations, and depend on the critical tasks identified via a job analysis or an occupational profile. Examples of skills required for accountants and welders are profiled. (ACT) via ECS

New Book on For Profit Education Covers Many Perspectives

Private Enterprise and Public Education

Frederick M. Hess and Michael B. Horn

June 2013

The growth of for-profit providers in the K-16 education sector has generated more than its fair share of controversy. “Private Enterprise and Public Education” takes stock of the debate, neither demonizing nor celebrating the for-profit sector, to understand what it takes for for-profits to promote quality and cost effectiveness at scale. Contributors address how policymakers and other education stakeholders can create an environment where the power of for-profit innovation and investment is leveraged to better serve students.

State Budget Officers Want Comprehensive College Reform

An unusual organization of policy leaders has joined the chorus for higher education reform. Chief state budget officers rarely speak collectively or publicly about higher education—instead focusing on state revenue issues, adjusting budgets in light of revenue surpluses (a rare event of late) or shortfalls, and enacting a budget. But in a recent report, these state officials spoke out on higher education. In it, they explore the realities of increased enrollment demands, limited state funding, slower growth in tuition, concerns about institutional spending patterns, performance-based funding, and a changed federal-state partnership. These realities led the state budget heads to a set of recommendations that are not unexpected. They include funding performance, restricting tuition increases, expanding access, improving information about higher education spending, and increasing cost-efficiency. In other words, the call for reform on higher education is now squarely on the minds of state fiscal officers. The post is from Education Sector’s The Quick and the Ed via Carnegie Foundation.


Drastic Remediation Overhaul In Florida

Florida Gov. Rick Scott recently signed S.B 1720 to overhaul college remediation and allow a large segment of students to immediately enroll in college-level courses, regardless of their academic abilities. The goal is to allow more students to start earning college credits while also offering them support services. Some researchers praise the legislation, but college administrators fear that students are being set up to fail. Check out ECS’ new brief on remedial reform models. (Orlando Sentinel, 06/03/13)

Too Many Private Colleges Play The Merit Aid Game

Higher Ed Watch  

As Higher Ed Watch reported this week, only a small number of private colleges are using their financial aid resources to make college more accessible and affordable for the neediest students. Instead, most are charging students with family incomes of $30,000 or less a net price exceeding $10,000. The news is much better in the public higher education sector. Two-thirds of public four-year colleges continue to enroll a substantial share of low-income students and charge them a manageable net price. However, the data also raise some major red flags. [Full Article] 

6 Universities Commended For Enrollment Increase And Higher Graduation Without Spending Much

Even as demand increases and the country needs more postsecondary degrees, many public universities are responding to budget pressures by becoming more selective and recruiting more out-of-state and international students. This brief focuses on six public research institutions which have expanded enrollment and achieved higher graduation rates in a cost-effective manner as revenues declined. Similarities and differences among them are discussed as well as what must be done on institutional, state, and national levels. (Education Policy Program, New America Foundation)