USF working to bridge gender gap

Paul Dosal said departments at USF such as Housing and Residential Education and Health and Wellness have introduced programs to support male success. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

USF is working to bridge the gap of a growing minority group on college campuses — men.

It has become a national trend over the past decades that fewer men are applying to college.

For every four women who are graduating from four-year colleges and universities, there are only three men, according to Forbes.

This issue is prevalent at USF as well.

The First Time in College (FTIC) enrollment last year for women was 60.3 percent, whereas for men it was 39.7 percent, according to the 2019 Equity Report.

Haywood Brown, vice president of diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity, said USF has created committees, initiatives and conducted research to help combat this issue.   

Former USF President Judy Genshaft developed a male success presidential task force in 2015  which eventually became a permanent advisory committee consisting of eight members.

However, after four years of inactivity, the committee was revived this past year.

“The group had been meeting but membership dropped off and we recently decided to reactivate it,” said Paul Dosal, vice president of student success. “The group is now looking to bring awareness and organize a plan to bridge the gender gap.” 

The main issue Brown said that deter men from applying to college is taking the initiative. He said women in their adolescence years are more self-sufficient whereas most men need guidance to take the first step.

For most young men, this issue stems from high school.

Brown said “expectation bias” from guidance counselors and the lack of male role models in a  young man’s life can affect how they plan their futures. 

According to an Inside Higher Education article, “High school teachers expect 58 percent of white high school students, but just 37 percent of black high school students, to go on to obtain a four-year college degree.” This study was based on data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics and it focused on the demographics of both the students and the teachers.

“The work really starts with high school guidance counselors,” Brown said. “They are overworked, underpaid and many tend to gravitate toward students who are interested instead of the disinterested students.”

Locally, Brown said he is speaking with middle and high schools to educate young men about how to be engaged in their futures. Male professionals such as firefighters, police officers and educators also speak to young males as well.

He said the goal is to target sixth and seventh graders and inform them while they are young.

Brown said this is done because most young males will be disinterested in career goals if they don’t see themselves represented in their community.

“Only about 24 percent of all teachers were male in 2012, with just one in 10 men teaching elementary school students,” according to a 2017 USA Today article about male teacher shortage.

There is a larger disparity when it comes to male teachers of color. The Department of Education said black men account for only two percent of the U.S. teacher population.

Even though men are not applying to college at the same rate as women, they are graduating at the same rates, according to Brown.

The FTIC retention rates for both males and females in 2017 was 89.2 percent, according to the 2019 Equity Report.

“Once people get into USF, the success is equal to women once they graduate after they surpass their sophomore year,” Brown said.

Brown said male students who drop out are often consumed by distractions such as fraternities or more serious issues such as food security and low finances.   

So what exactly is helping to retain men those first two years at USF?

Dosal said departments such as Housing and Residential Education and Health and Wellness have introduced programs to support their success.

Specifically, Housing and Residential Education has a program called Men of Excellence which works to enhance the lives of male students. The men participate in a variety of events that develop their academic and professional skills to prepare them for education, according to the Housing and Residential Education website.

To decrease the stigma of male mental health, Health and Wellness created a program so that men can seek guidance privately from their own homes.

Even with the student success initiatives on campus, Dosal said the work being done to support the success of men at USF cannot be solved overnight.

“It’s a national issue and a lot of the issues we are dealing with are outside of our control,” Dosal said. “Whether it be societal, cultural — we do what we can for the students at USF and we are beginning to see some of that progress.”

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