Women have a more positive view than men about the value higher education provides, according to a nationwide Pew Research Center survey released in August 2011. Half of all women who have graduated from a four-year college give the U.S. higher education system excellent (6%) or good (44%) marks for the value it provides given the money spent by students and their families; only 37% of male graduates agree (32% good).
Women See ‘Soft’ Benefits of College
In addition to giving more positive ratings to the higher education system, women who have graduated from college are more likely than their male peers to say their education was useful. Specifically, more than eight in 10 women (81%) with a four-year college degree say that their college education was “very useful” in increasing their knowledge and helping them to grow intellectually, a view shared by 67% of men.
College-educated women are also more likely than their male counterparts to say that their college education helped them grow and mature as a person (73% compared to 64%). In terms of how useful college was in preparing them for a job or career, both men and women are somewhat less enthusiastic: 58% of women and 52% of men say college was very useful in this regard. Here the gender difference is not statistically significant.
Women Rely More on Parents for College Funding
When asked how they paid for their college education, more than one-third of four-year college graduates (35%) say that their parents paid for most of their college expenses, roughly a quarter (24%) say that they paid for college themselves, 18% relied on student loans, and the same share relied on scholarships or financial aid.
Women are more likely than men to say their parents paid most of the cost. Among women with at least a bachelor’s degree, 40% say their parents paid for most of their undergraduate college expenses, and about half as many (19%) say they paid for college themselves. Men are less likely to say they relied on their parents to finance their college education: 29% say their parents paid most of their expenses, while an equal proportion say they paid most of the costs themselves.
Women Outnumber Men on Campus
Among currently enrolled students ages 18-24, about 53% are women. Pew historical analysis shows that in the past 40 years, the share of young women enrolled in college has more than doubled, while the share of young men enrolled in college has increased much more modestly. In 1967, one-third of young men ages 18-24 were enrolled in college, compared with less than one in five (19%) young women in the same age range. The enrollment gap between the two genders declined steadily from the late 1960s through the mid-1980s.
Men and women reached parity in the late 1980s. Since then, young women have overtaken young men in college enrollment, creating a reverse gender gap where women are more likely than men to go to college. By 2009, a record 44% of young women were enrolled in college, compared with 38% of young men.
This gender gap on campus has also resulted in a gender gap among recent graduates. In 2010, 55% of college graduates age 25-29 were women.
WKCD: Females, Asians Most Likely to Have Immediate College Plans
Overall, results from a December 2010 survey by the non-profits WKCD (What Kids Can Do) and the Lumina Foundation indicate that almost seven in 10 (68%) US high school students surveyed plan to start college right after graduating high school. Another 16% plan to attend eventually. Only 4% say they definitely will not attend college, with 2% not wanting to and 2% wanting to but unable due to finances.
However, a demographic breakdown of these responses shows that 75% of female high school students plan to attend college right after graduation, compared to only 61% of male students, a 23% differential. This is even slightly wider than the 22% differential between the 78% of upper-income students and 64% of lower-income students who plan to attend college right away.
Broken down by ethnicity, 79% of Asian students plan to attend college right away, making Asians the ethnic group most likely to have this plan. Conversely, 56% of Hispanic students plan to attend college right away, marking a 41% difference between the highest- and lowest-scoring ethnic groups in regard to having immediate college plans.
About the Data: This report is based on findings from a recent Pew Research Center survey as well as Pew analyses of Current Population Survey (CPS) data on education trends. The general public survey is based on telephone interviews conducted with a nationally representative sample of 2,142 adults ages 18 and older living in the continental US, including an oversample of 336 adults ages 18-34, from March 15-29, 2011. Survey interviews were conducted under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International in English and Spanish.