It’s not your father’s college campus anymore.
This semester, many incoming college kids — and their parents — may have been struck by the large number of women students on campus.
In 2010, women comprised the majority of students in many small liberal arts colleges as well as larger public and private schools, such as Oberlin College (55 percent), the University of Georgia (58 percent), and New York University (61 percent). According to the National Center for Education Statistics, women will constitute approximately 57 percent of students enrolled in American colleges and universities during the 2012-2013 academic year — that’s 1.3 female undergraduates for every male undergraduate.
This strong presence of women students contrasts sharply with the pre-1970s higher educational landscape. In 1960, for example, there were 1.6 men for every woman on campus.
As we mark the 40th anniversary of Title IX this year, we need to recognize that its impact extends well beyond athletics. The central purpose of this landmark legislation was to prohibit sex discrimination in college admissions and providing women with the access to higher education that their brothers, fathers, husbands and sons had long enjoyed.
Prior to the 1970s, widespread gender discrimination in college admissions represented a formidable barrier to women’s access to college education. Reasoning that men, as the presumptive breadwinners in their families, would have great use for higher education while women would likely waste higher learning by retreating from the labor force after marrying and having children, colleges routinely used gender quotas and other discriminatory admissions policies to limit the number of women on campus.
Title IX outlawed gender quotas and required colleges and universities to hold men and women to the same admissions standards.
This history was not missed on one parent who will send his two daughters to college in a few years. In a recent article, President Obama offered a prose fist-bump to Title IX.
“Let’s not forget, Title IX isn’t just about sports,” he wrote in Newsweek. “From addressing inequality in math and science education to preventing sexual assault on campus to fairly funding athletic programs, Title IX ensures equality for our young people in every aspect of their education. It’s a springboard for success.”
As this new academic year gets under way, let us take a moment to recognize the transformative effect of Title IX on U.S. higher education.
This groundbreaking government regulation helped to level the playing field — and the studying field.
Deondra Rose is a political scientist and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Notre Dame. She works in the area of public policy, gender, and higher education and is working on a book manuscript titled, “Citizenship by Degree: U.S. Higher Education Policy and the Changing Gender Dynamics of American Citizenship.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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