The college enrollment gender gap: What’s it like in Utah?

Nov 15, 2023, 9:30 PM

Students walk during the the University of Utah's commencement in Salt Lake City. Women across the ...

Students walk during the the University of Utah's commencement in Salt Lake City on Thursday, May 4, 2023. With 8,723 graduates, it is the largest group of graduates in the school’s history. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Women continue to outnumber men when it comes to college enrollment and getting a degree, including in Utah. 

Since 2010, college enrollment has been higher for 18- to 24-year-old women across the U.S. According to a U.S. Census report, of the over 21 million students enrolled in college in 2021, about 11.9 million were women and about 9.2 million were men. That’s about 56% women compared to about 44% men.

So what’s the college enrollment gender gap in Utah? According to College Factual, 56% of Weber State University’s students are women. Similarly, 55% of Utah State University’s students are women

Schools farther south in Utah have more of a disparity. Almost 59% of Southern Utah University’s students are women and about 57% of Utah Tech University’s students are women

However, Brigham Young University and the University of Utah had a more even ratio. About 50% of BYU’s students are women and about 53% of U of U students are women

What the U had to say about enrollment

University of Utah Communications Director Rebecca Walsh told KSL NewsRadio that the more even split between male and female students isn’t by accident.

“Our enrollment management team worked very carefully throughout the recruitment process and the application process to make sure that we are as close to 50/50 as we can with our incoming classes,” she said.

That team, Walsh said, looks at data, speaks to high school counselors, and looks at more than just test scores when accepting a student. The shift to a holistic approach of considering the whole student is a trend in many schools, especially because the COVID-19 pandemic hit grades hard.

Title IX, which protects students from discrimination based on sex, has also been a big influence. 

“Up until the 60s and 70s, we were pretty dominated by male students. The balance has shifted now,” she said. “There are more women going into college nationally and I think also in Utah. Title IX was huge as part of that.”

Walsh said the U tries to aim for 50/50 enrollment each year as best they can. 

Gender gap in graduation rates

Women also outnumber men when it comes to getting a college degree. According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, women have earned 57% of all bachelor’s degrees in the U.S. since the late 1990s. In 2022, 39% of women age 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree or more compared to 36.2% of men. 

At the University of Utah, Walsh said 50.5% of bachelor’s degrees were awarded to women this year, compared to 49.5% of men.

“We feel like we’re pretty pretty equitable in how our degrees are awarded, and who ends up graduating from our institution,” Walsh said.

Note: College factual uses a variety of data sources in their research, including the U.S. Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Department of Education.

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The college enrollment gender gap: What’s it like in Utah?