Women outpacing men for college degrees in statePublic colleges and universities in Wisconsin are awarding far more degrees to women than men.
By: By McLean Bennett, The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis., Superior Telegram
Public colleges and universities in Wisconsin are awarding far more degrees to women than men.
Of the nearly 32,000 bachelor's and graduate degrees the UW System handed out in the 2009-10 academic year, more than 55 percent went to women. It's a discrepancy that mirrors a nationwide pattern -- one that a local university official said could end up hurting Wisconsin's economy.
"For those of us in higher education, we're not surprised at all," Alan Tuchtenhagen, associate vice chancellor at UW-River Falls, said of recently publicized data.
Tuchtenhagen said he's spent years studying college attendance patterns among men and women.
Recently published U.S. Census Bureau data show that in 2010, 37 percent of working women ages 25 and older had at least a bachelor's degree, compared with only 35 percent of working men.
Those figures are only for people with jobs, said Robert Bernstein, a spokesman with the Census Bureau. Overall, men still outnumber women in holding college degrees, he said.
It's only been in recent years -- since about 2006 -- that the percentage of working women with college degrees has been higher than the percentage of working men, Bernstein added.
Tuchtenhagen said women started getting degrees at higher rates than men in about the mid-1990s, meaning it would be only a matter of time before the number of degree holders in the workforce began reflecting that trend.
Tuchtenhagen said it's hard to say why men aren't doing as well as women when it comes to getting degrees. He said unlike the mid-1900s, when women were discouraged from attending college, men today don't face discrimination from universities.
"Men don't seem to get the message" about what graduating from high school and going to college can mean for their careers, he said. "Women seem to grasp that better than guys."
At UW-Eau Claire, more than 59 percent of graduates receiving bachelor's and graduate degrees last academic year were women, according to UW System data. Last year, about 53 percent of UW-Stout graduates were women.
At UW-River Falls, Tuchtenhagen's university, more than 64 percent of last year's degree earners were women, according to the UW System.
Kris Anderson, UW-Eau Claire's admissions director, said she thinks the trend has something to do with the types of jobs men and women seek.
Men, Anderson said, more frequently take jobs in construction and manufacturing -- fields she said don't usually require college degrees. Women, on the other hand, gravitate toward jobs in health care, education and social work -- areas that often require degrees.
"Those disciplines that women are going into more and more require a college degree. And the ones that men are going into don't," Anderson said.
Tuchtenhagen said businesses and industries are attracted to states with better-educated populations. He said if high numbers of men continue to avoid going to college and obtain higher degrees, it could mean lost economic opportunities for Wisconsin.
"This is very much an economic development issue," Tuchtenhagen said.
Bennett can be reached at 715-830-5832, 800-236-7077 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Copyright (c) 2011, The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis./Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.