The University of Alaska’s gender gap ranks second in the nation, according to findings prepared by a Fairbanks professor and presented to UA Regents. Women make up 61 percent of enrollment on the university’s 16 campuses statewide, and the gap widens when it comes to the number of women compared with men who complete degree programs.
Judith Kleinfeld, director of northern studies at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, conducted the study. She said women nationwide outnumber men pursuing higher education.
UA ranks second in the nation in the divide between the number of women who receive bachelor’s degrees compared with men; the gap is wider at the certificate and associate program levels.
Nationally men account for less than 44 percent of college enrollment.
A long-standing focus at UA is to educate a work force to meet Alaska’s needs; in rural Alaska especially, the need is for teachers and health-care professionals — fields that traditionally have attracted more women.
“It means we need to pay more attention to the guys,” Kleinfeld told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
Kleinfeld and other university officials say the gap in academic performance starts in the early school years when girls often receive extra nurturing.
Girls nationally are more likely to make the honor roll, graduate from high school and go to college. Boys are more likely than girls to drop out of high school or end up in special education programs, according to a study released earlier this year by the New York-based Academy for Educational Development.
Regents are looking at ways to increase the number of job-skills training programs in industries most likely to attract male interest, especially on rural campuses where the divide is greatest.
“It’s troubling and it’s an issue that we’re certainly aware of,” Fairbanks regent Cynthia Henry said. “It’s a national trend, but we are at the extreme end of the trend.”
Men age 18 and older made up 52 percent of the state’s population in 2003, but were a mere 39 percent of UA’s student body. The statewide university system enrolled 157 women for every 100 men that year.
Only the UAF campus was close to the national average with 44 percent male enrollment. Kleinfeld attributed that to UAF programs in natural sciences and engineering, which tend to attract more men.
The trend is most pronounced among Alaska Natives and on the university’s rural campuses. Three Alaska Native women graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2003 for every Alaska Native male — the highest gender gap in the nation.
UAF is considering exporting to rural campuses some programs, such as in engineering and technology, that have proved popular with male students. Programs that trained students in the construction and mining trades also were popular.
Prince William Sound Community College, the only campus in the UA system with a gender balance similar to the state population, offers a number of programs related to the petroleum industry that attract more men.
— Associated Press
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