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Female enrollment dominates UW-River Falls campus

November 15, 2021

UW-River Falls enrollment continues to be female dominated contributing to an increasing national education gap. 

Last year at UW-River Falls, 65% of student enrollment is female according to the university institutional research report released in March of 2021. The data also shows male enrollment is down 4.4% over the previous five years. The data is in line with a growing trend across U.S. universities that shows less male enrollment and a widening gender education gap. 

Students in University Center
Students sit in the University Center. (Photo by Isabella Forliti / Student Voice)

In a recent article published by the Wall Street Journal, at the end of the 2020-2021 academic year women made up 59.5% of college enrollment across the country. The article said universities are seeing less enrollment overall regardless of gender and that men accounted for roughly 70% of the decline.

Sarah Nelson is the director of admissions at UWRF and said the campus is not alone in the dynamic of enrollment disparities. While the campus enrollment numbers reflect the national trends, Nelson cannot provide a main reason for this increasing gap.

“That’s the million-dollar question,” Nelson said. “I don’t think we know the answers.” 

Nelson said the campus has many academic programs directed towards females such as animal science and education majors contributing to the trends. Nelson also said more males are devaluing a college education compared to joining the workforce right out of college. She added a rising number of male students don’t see a value in getting a four-year degree. This problem is an important issue to Nelson. 

“I think there’s a lot of value in having an educated population regardless of your gender or -gender identity,” Nelson said. “The economics of that are really important to the region in the state.”

Assistant Chancellor for Student Success Jamie Zamjahn agrees the most important issue is economic related. Zamjahn said the biggest issue this trend causes is the lack of social mobility. 

“There’s a lot of worry about males leaving these higher-level positions which could ultimately hurt our national, local and state economies,” Zamjahn said.

UWRF has not conducted any research to determine why their female enrollment numbers are so high besides having female oriented programs. Additionally, the admissions office has not directed any focus towards recruitment for males Nelson said.

“We have discussed marketing more towards male enrollment but nothing ever came of it,” Nelson said.

One of Zamjahn’s roles is addressing the issue of male recruitment. The department is trying to add co-curricular activities such as baseball or e-sports to draw interest from potential applicants Zamjahn said. Another goal for Zamjahn and the department is to reengage students hoping they see the value of higher education. To accomplish this, the office will provide students with an outlook of their field during their enrollment in their degree program. 

“As we’re bringing in new students we want to say, ‘alright you might be interested in communications. Here is where our communication graduates are going, here are the companies they’re working for and on average here is how much the starting wage is’,” Zamjahn said.

Both Zamjahn and Nelson agree there is no easy way to fix the problem moving forward but the best way is to have students realize the value of their education.