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Men lag behind women in receiving college degrees

Lower levels of academic engagement among men are to blame for a growing university graduation gap between men and women, according to one Ohio State professor.
Between 1960 and 2010, the proportion of American women achieving a bachelor’s degree or higher increased to 57 percent from 40 percent, while males’ degree attainment has fallen to 43 percent from 60 percent, said OSU sociology professor Claudia Buchmann, co-author of “The Rise of Women: The Growing Gender Gap in Education and What it Means for American Schools.” Buchmann said the gap was not because of intellectual superiority – women are not necessarily smarter than men – but because of different levels of engagement.
Since the gender revolution of the ’50s and ’60s women have been able to pursue higher levels of career success than what culture had previously labeled as acceptable. This explains the increase in their higher education graduation rate, Buchmann said.
“Women are now 60 percent of all master degree recipients,” she said.
At the same time, culture’s definition of masculinity has not changed. Instead of masculinity found in academic success, culture often identifies masculinity with physicality, she said. Buchmann found that this older view of masculinity was especially common among men from working-class backgrounds.
“It’s about what they can do physically, it’s not about how hard did they work in school, how much did they study,” she said.
Across the academic spectrum men underperform compared to women, from being less likely to graduate high school to being less likely to graduate college, Buchmann said. In order to combat this, a higher level of academic engagement must be emphasized because of its real-world ramifications, while traditional masculine stereotypes must be deconstructed, she said.
A cultural shift is often slow to come into fruition, and Buchmann thinks this gap can be bridged through a renovated educational system that treats everyone as unique.
“Students need to be taught as individuals,” Buchmann said.
Some involved in higher education agree that schools need to shape themselves around students’ specific needs.
“We want schools that adapt to kids rather than expecting the kids to adapt to the school,” said James Moore, professor in the College of Education and Human Ecology and associate provost in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. “How schools reward those who achieve tends to sometimes be counterintuitive to how men learn and how they’ve been learning.”
Some male OSU students are skeptical that traditional masculinity is even in conflict with academia.
“I don’t think masculinity has anything to do with schooling or a degree,” said Derrik Cupps, a fourth-year in communication.
Sarah Ross, a third-year in psychology, said she is slow to make any judgments on the academic attainment potential of either gender, but could understand Buchmann’s results given the lack of engagement some men have in school.
“I could definitely see how guys maybe don’t want to go through the whole long process of school,” Ross said. “Gender is not really the thing that determines whether or not you go for higher education.”
Buchmann based her findings on more than 15 data sets from the Department of Education, the U.S. Census and other national and international surveys.
While she said the national number applies to OSU, the university is skewed toward a more even male-to-female graduation rate because certain majors tend to be gender-specific, such as engineering and nursing.
Buchmann’s book, “The Rise of Women,” was released earlier this month.

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