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That colleges have suffered big drops in enrollment isn’t news, but a closer look shows that the decline is worst among a part of the population that once made up the majority in higher education: men.

The number of men in college fell more than seven times more steeply during Covid than the number of women, accelerating a trend that has now resulted in women outnumbering men on campus by nearly two to one.

While enrollment in higher education overall fell 2.5 percent in the fall, or by more than 461,000 students compared to the fall of 2019, the decline among men was more than seven times as steep as the decline among women, according to an analysis of figures from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

The Hechinger Report’s Jon Marcus joins the WOSU public radio program “All Sides with Ann Fisher” to discuss this trend here.

Women now comprise nearly 60 percent of enrollment in universities and colleges and men just over 40 percent, the research center reports. Fifty years ago, the gender proportions were reversed.

Among the reasons: Boys are more likely than girls as early as elementary school to be held back, a Brown University researcher found. They are almost 9 percentage points less likely to graduate from high school, according to the U.S. Department of Education. 

The pandemic has also opened more jobs for young men without college educations, at grocery stores and at Amazon, FedEx and other delivery companies, college counselors say.

Those can lead to quick and early incomes for high school students reluctant to invest the time and money it costs to get degrees. But their head start may be deceptive. Graduates with bachelor’s degrees still generally make more than people with lesser credentials.

Unemployment for people without degrees, nationwide, rose more than twice as fast during the pandemic as unemployment for people with them, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco found.   

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