School of Education News

The Atlantic interviews UW’s Jackson for report, ‘Why Men are the New College Minority’

August 21, 2017

The Atlantic earlier this month posted a report headlined, “Why Men Are the New College Minority."

The deck headline on the report reads: ​"Males are enrolling in higher education at alarmingly low rates, and some colleges are working hard to reverse the trend.”

As The Atlantic notes: “Where men once went to college in proportions far higher than women—58 percent to 42 percent as recently as the 1970s—the ratio has now almost exactly reversed. This fall, women will comprise more than 56 percent of students on campuses nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Some 2.2 million fewer men than women will be enrolled in college this year. And the trend shows no sign of abating. By 2026, the department estimates, 57 percent of college students will be women.”

One of the concerns, The Atlantic reports, is that “low-income boys in places with the most economic inequality, in particular, suffer what one study called the ‘economic despair’ of seeing little hope for financial advancement."

UW-Madison’s Jerlando Jackson explains to The Atlantic how many boys perceive little benefit to college, especially considering its cost.  Jackson, the director and chief research scientist at Wisconsin’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory, has written about this topic and says the idea of going to college can seem like a lot of sacrifice for a vague payoff far in the future.

“They think, ‘Well, I could just start out working in the mall and in six years make the same as a classmate who goes to college and whose first post-college job pays them less than I’ll be making then,’ ” Jackson tells The Atlantic for its report. Jackson is UW-Madison's Vilas Distinguished Professor of Higher Education and is a faculty member with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis.

But, as The Atlantic notes, people with bachelor’s degrees earn 56 percent more, on average, than people with only high-school educations, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The article also points out, however, that “men who do enroll in college, at whatever age, are more likely than women to drop out, and they graduate at lower rates, the Education Department reports.”

Jackson tells The Atlantic that he thinks there’s a surprising racial component to all this. There’s not much work being done to encourage boys to go to college, he said, because not all of those boys are from racial and ethnic minorities society regards as disadvantaged. A lot of them are white.

“It’s a tough discussion to have and a hard pill to swallow when you have to start the conversation with, ‘White males are not doing as well as one might historically think,’” says Jackson says. “We’re uncomfortable as a nation having a discussion that includes white males as a part of a group that is having limited success.”

To learn much more about this nuanced topic, check out the entire report on The Atlantic website.

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