Growing Gender Gap

Over the next decade, enrollment of women and full-time students is projected to outpace that of other groups.
September 12, 2005

By 2014, American colleges are expected to enroll 19.5 million students, up 17 percent from 2002. Increases should be particularly notable for women, full-time students, and professional-school students.

Those predictions come from "Projections of Education Statistics to 2014," the latest version of an annual report from the U.S. Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics that examines trends for the decade ahead. The report covers enrollments at all levels of education and uses data about high school graduates, enrollment patterns in higher education, and other figures to project totals. The statistics experts who prepare the report acknowledge the uncertainties of predicting the future and so produce three versions of their projections, suggesting the greatest confidence in the middle figures (which are those cited in this article).

Between 2002 and 2014, the report predicts an increase in the gender gap in higher education that is already concerning many educators. Male enrollment is projected to increase by 12 percent and female enrollment by 21 percent during that period.

In 2002, women made up 57 percent of the nation's 16.6 million students. Based on these projections, women would make up 58 percent of students by 2014.

The report also predicts that women will see their rate of increase in earning degrees outpace that of men for every type of degree.

Projected Percentage Increase in Degrees Awarded, 2002-3 to 2013-14, by Gender

Degree Men Women
Associate   9% 21%
Bachelor's 10% 22%
Master's 30% 39%
Doctorate 12% 28%
Professional 13% 38%

Many colleges have been reporting in recent years that their fastest growing enrollments have come from part-time students. But the report projects that increases in full-time enrollments will outpace those in part-time enrollments, 20 percent to 14 percent. By 2014, full-time students would make up 61 percent of all enrollments. While undergraduates will still make up the lion's share of students, their rate of increase during that period (16 percent) is expected to lag behind those of graduate students (21 percent) and professional-school students (32 percent).

Private colleges, while enrolling a minority of students, are also expected to see greater gains than public institutions, 19 percent to 17 percent.

For public institutions, the new report also projects spending levels. (A change in accounting procedures used by private colleges prevented a comparison for those institutions, according to the Education Department.)

Spending Projections for Public Colleges, 2000-1 to 2013-14

Category 4-Year Institutions 2-Year Institutions
2000-1 expenditures $146 billion $31 billion
2013-14 projected expenditures $223 billion $50 billion
Percentage change in expenditures 53% 62%
Projected spending per student, 2013-14 $34,400 $12,100
Percentage change in spending per student 18% 27%



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