College Admissions: Discrimination Against Women
WASH POST -- Civil rights investigators will soon begin reviewing admissions data from a sampling of colleges in the Washington region to determine whether, after decades of progress toward sexual equity, female students have become so plentiful in higher education that institutions have entered a new era of discrimination against them.
Women apply in greater numbers than men to most colleges in the D.C. area. They make up at least three-fifths of the applicant pool at a number of schools, including the College of William and Mary in Virginia, Goucher and St. Mary's colleges in Maryland and American University in the District.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that some schools are favoring men by admitting them at higher rates than women to try to preserve a male-female balance on campus. Conventional admissions-office wisdom dictates that colleges dominated by either sex are less appealing to applicants in general.
William and Mary admitted 43 percent of its male applicants and 29 percent of its female applicants in fall 2008, according to its institutional data. Vassar College in New York's Hudson Valley admitted 34 percent of the men who applied and 21 percent of the women. Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania admitted 19 percent of male applicants and 14 percent of female applicants. Wesleyan University in Connecticut admitted 30 percent of the men and 25 percent of the women. Female applicants far outnumbered male candidates at all four schools.
Over the past 40 years, women have gone from underrepresented minority to overrepresented majority on U.S. college campuses, where they outnumber men by a proportion approaching 60-40 (see chart above). Barriers that kept women from college have been swept away, and scholarly focus has shifted to the impediments facing men, who are more likely to drop out of school and more apt to go into the military, manual-labor jobs or prison.