Freshman guys outnumber gals

Jeff Cantwell, a freshman at Mesa State College, eats lunch in the Mav Pavilion dining hall on campus. His gender is in the majority of the 1,918 new enrollees this fall. More programs that appeal to men may be part of the reason, officials said.



Mesa State College bucked a nationwide trend for the second fall in a row by having more men than women enroll as first-time students.

Men make up 51.9 percent of 1,918 first-time students at the college this fall, down slightly from last fall’s 52.1 percent.

Mesa State President Tim Foster believes more social opportunities on campus and more programs with a direct path to a career, such as the newer construction-management and mechanical-engineering programs, have attracted men to the school.

“In retrospect, I think men might be more linear” in their degree selections, Foster said.

Enrollment also is up in nine-month and two-year programs that traditionally appeal more to men than women, such as the machining, welding, line-worker and transportation-services programs.

About three-fourths of students enrolled at Western Colorado Community College are men, and the community college makes up 32 percent of Mesa State’s undergraduate enrollment. Community college students and students at Mesa State’s Grand Junction and Montrose campuses are included in Mesa State enrollment counts.

Mesa State hasn’t done anything to specifically target prospective male students, according to the college’s director of admissions, Jared Meier. There are no questions male recruits ask him more than females to give him an idea of what men are looking for, but Meier suspects the economy steered some men toward higher education.

“In the last two to three years, when the economy dipped, men weren’t making as much, and maybe they or their employer believed if they didn’t go to school now, they’d regret it,” Meier said.

“If there was a boom in the economy again, it would probably go back the other way,” he said of the male-to-female ratio among first-time students.

The gender trend in first-year Mesa State students doesn’t carry over to the college’s general population. Of the 7,662 undergraduate students enrolled in Mesa State this year, 4,193 are women, or 54.7 percent.

First-year student Jeff Cantwell, 19, hasn’t noticed too many extra guys in his class because of the majority of women on campus. He’s fine with the overall ratio.

“I’m definitely grateful,” he said.

The percentage of female students at Mesa State was above 56 percent of the total student population from 2001 to 2009, according to the Department of Higher Education.

Female students comprised at least 52 percent of the four-year college/university population in Colorado during the same time frame.

Colorado School of Mines, University of Colorado-Boulder, Western State College and Fort Lewis College were the only public, four-year institutions in Colorado with more men than women enrolled as undergraduates last fall. The University of Northern Colorado had the largest portion of female students in Colorado, with women making up 60 percent of the undergraduate population in fall 2009.

Women consistently have made up 57 percent of the U.S. college-student population for the past decade, according to the American Council on Education.

Women earn the majority of bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the United States, and they just surpassed men in earning doctoral degrees.

Guesses vary as to why more women than men are roaming college campuses. One of the simplest explanations is that more women than men are eligible for college admission.

In Colorado, 1,005 more women than men graduated high school within four years in 2009, even though there were 1,445 more men than women that began as freshmen with the class of 2009.

Women also had higher ACT scores this year in Colorado, beating the average composite score of men by a half point.

Cantwell said he’s not sure why his gender isn’t more prevalent at the upperclassman level at Mesa State, but he guesses some men may have trouble lasting at college because of the social aspects of higher education.

“I knew some guys last year that were here for the party,” he said.

While the gender gap may be more noticeable in general education classes, Mesa State senior Kelsey Mesh, 21, said whether a person sees more men or women in class at the upperclassman level can depend on a person’s major.

She always thought there were more men than women at Mesa State because men dominate the classes she takes as a sports-management major.

Engineering student Stephen Zenzen, 20, said the ratio of men to women is about even in his general-education math and physics classes, but there are only two women in his engineering class.

“It is still kind of male-dominated,” he said of his major.

Cantwell, on the other hand, notices more women than men in his classes as an English major.

“It’s more when you get down to majors that (genders) separate,” Mesh said.


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