Women outnumber men by 26 percent here at Grambling State University, where many are wondering where the men are going.
There is an extreme shift affecting all of higher education.
Once upon a time, men were in higher proportions than women. According to the U.S. Department of Education men comprised more than 58 percent in the 1970s.
Over two million fewer men than women will be enrolled in college this fall. And the trend will continue to increase due to external and internal factors. By 2026, the department estimates, 57 percent of college students will be women.
That is an irony not lost on D’Andrea Brown, the interim director of admissions at Grambling State University, which is brainstorming different methods to increase its supply of men––including faculty mentorship and possible middle school recruitment.
“I have five brothers, so I have always felt mentorship was a need in the black community,” Brown said.
Started as an agricultural and industrial school, Grambling has had a long road to travel to balance its enrollment by gender. By 1936, the curriculum emphasis shifted to education and students were able to receive professional teaching certificates.
The university prepared educators in elementary educators and secondary teachers. A field predominantly ran by women. The draft and World War II also affected the enrollment during this time.
“During WWII, Grambling had few to no men on campus due to the draft,” Glenn Lewis, Grambling State University Archivist and Photographer, said. “In fact, the legendary Coach Eddie Robinson had to coach the high school football team, due to lack of a full roster at the college.”
According to the National WWII Museum, the United States instituted the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, which required all men between the ages of 21 and 45 to register for the draft.
Grambling has a lot of competition. Reeling from a years-long decline in overall enrollment, colleges and universities are vying for new ways to attract all students, especially pay new attention to the number of men who apply.
The problem has its origins as early as elementary school, only to escalate by modern economic forces that degrees are not worth the time and debt.
Though critics believe that few in higher education are doing enough to increase retention, there’s consensus that men’s reluctance to enroll in the first place isn’t necessarily the colleges’ fault.
“Enrollment will not increase until colleges and universities understand the changed climate and target market,” said Van Philips, fifth grade teacher and educational consultant at Cherokee Park Elementary, a public elementary school in Shreveport, Louisiana that focuses on a community of lifelong learners. That’s because, by the time students reach middle school , Philips said, “Normally that is the age where boys begin to take form of who they are going to be.”
Many boys beyond middle school perceive little benefit to college due to significant decline in black teachers in public schools, said Dr. Steve A. Favors, professor of education for the Earl Lester Cole honors college, who has had over 25 years of experience. To them, he said, there is a lack of attention especially during the transition years.
Low-income boys in places with the most economic inequality, in particular, aspire to be athletes and music artists. “They think, ‘Well, Lebron James and Kobe Bryant have all this money and they didn’t go to college, “ said Favors. “I believe many high schools have eliminated many activities that kept students engaged.”
Boys in many American communities don’t have the support and understand the value of education, said Favors. “They have been in high schools where they were never called on and received motivation.”
State education statistics show that nearly 15,000 Louisiana students drop-out of school each year. Men may also feel they have more financial alternatives to college. DeAndria Moss, honors’ student from Ruston, conducted a study on 25 students from Ruston High School.
According to her study, 60% surveyed said that the guidance counselor suggest [vocational-education] program as opposed to a four-year college. “The counselor plays a strategic role in high school’s career choices.” said Favors.
In the past, admission offices’ wait to reach out to males until they are already seniors in high school, since it’s found that boys get serious about college much later.
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. That’s one thing that University College director, Larry Green is focusing on with Tiger L.I.F.T.
Through leadership seminars and one-on-one mentorships for a collection of freshman, he said, “Help them with life skills and professional skills.They participate in classes taught by President Rick Gallot and former president, Dr. Steve Favors. Not only are men given an opportunity to be around other young men, but who have had the same experiences…We match one student that may have things figured out, with another that might not have it yet.”
Philips thinks there’s an importance mentor early. There’s not much work being done to encourage boys to go to college, he said because the black man is adjusting to the state of the world and culture. His solution is Young Kings, Inc., a club he created at his school.
“One of our missions every year is attempt to visit EVERY college or university within a 60-mile radius so that they are exposed to the opportunities that a higher level of education can provide.”