Outnumbered: Male students a minority at UMKC

Teresa Sheffield

Since 2000, about 57 percent of all American college enrollments have been women, according to a recent report by the American Council on Education.

Fitting rather neatly into this average, 57 percent of UMKC’s 15,492 students are female, and 43 percent are male.

“I’m not surprised at all; a lot of my classes are all girls. Actually this is my first year where in one of my classes it’s all guys and one girl,” senior Marissa Cohen said. “Even my general education classes are mostly girls. To hear that [statistic] is not a surprise.”

In a recent article on college enrollment based on gender, The New York Times cites several reasons researchers have given for this tremendous disparity, such as women tend to have higher grades than men, men tend to drop out in disproportionate numbers, and female enrollment skews higher among older students.

Jennifer DeHaemers, the Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, says these numbers have stayed about the same in the 14 years she’s been at UMKC.

“Young men when they graduate from high school feel like they have more options, like working or the military,” DeHaemers said. “Young ladies feel like they have to go to college to support themselves or their families. It’s not that they don’t have those options, it’s just that more men choose to pursue them.”

Some students are shocked by the disproportionate numbers.

“I feel very offended by that percentage,” junior James Teuscher said. “They should encourage more men because there should be more men that go to college.”

Some think a college degree isn’t required for success.

“I don’t think it’s a bad thing necessarily,” Cohen said. “College isn’t for everyone. If they’ve found that niche in other fields why should it be looked at in a negative sense?”

Some students cite other reasons for the huge gap in male and female enrollment.

“I think part of it could be due to the fact that we don’t have the best sports teams like Mizzou, so maybe that’s why they don’t get as many boys,” third-year medical student Matt Kliethermes said. “Part of me also wants to say that it could be because more and more professions are requiring a college degree and the few that don’t require them are manual labor positions like construction or repair jobs and not a lot of women have typically been interested in those jobs. They prefer jobs you need a degree for.”

DeHaemers said that better education in elementary and secondary schools would improve the overall college enrollment rates.

“I think that all students should be graduating ready for college and with a good preparation in English, math and the basic areas. I think if more people graduated from high school prepared for college, there would be more males in college and females too.” DeHaemers said. “I think we need to do a better job of preparing people for college, even if they don’t go they have better options for a job.”

DeHaemers also believes the high female enrollment could possibly be an after-effect of the women’s rights movement.

“When I was a young kid there was a lot of talk about equal rights. Throughout my life there has been a lot of emphasis on leveling the playing field. This could be part of that still going on, to level the playing field,” DeHaemers said. “For a lot of women it’s to break out of the traditional career for women. It could be a result of the movement in the `60s, `70s and even `80s, of ‘I can go to college; I can have a career.’”

The New York Times article also found these gender dynamics may cause women to settle in choosing their romantic partners because there are fewer men to choose from on campus. DeHaemers doesn’t believe that’s caused much tension on the UMKC campus.

“If you want to look at it that way where there’s more women than men to engage with, in that sense guys are advantaged,” DeHaemers said, “But I believe the students that come to UMKC are serious students and I don’t think women are only coming to UMKC to find a boyfriend or husband. It happens, but I don’t think it’s their purpose for coming here.”

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