First-Year Women at the Nation’s Leading Research Universities

2013-annual-survey-badgeFor the third year in a row, WIAReport has surveyed the nation’s highest-ranking research universities to determine the percentage of women in this year’s entering classes. We also report on gender differences in acceptance rates at these schools and whether women have made gains in enrollments at these colleges compared to where they were a year ago.

Click to enlarge

Of the 28 high-ranking universities that responded to our survey, women were a majority of the entering students at 17 schools. This was up from 12 universities a year ago. There were more men than women in the entering classes at 11 universities.

There are wide variations in the percentage of women in the first-year classes at these highly rated universities. For the third year in a row, the highest percentage of women in the entering class among this large group of leading research universities is found at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. There are 2,345 women among the 3,946 entering students at UNC this fall. Thus, women make up more than 59 percent of all first-year students.

Emory University is second in this year’s survey with an entering class that is 57 percent female. Emory was second in last year’s survey as well. As was the case for the last two years, the University of Virginia has the third-highest percentage of women in its entering class among this group of leading research universities. At Georgetown University, the University of California at Berkeley, and Wake Forest University, women make up more than 52 percent of the entering students.

At the other extreme, women make up only 35.2 percent of the entering students at the California Institute of Technology. Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were also near the bottom. But this is hardly surprising considering that these schools have large numbers of students in engineering and other STEM disciplines where historically women have been vastly underrepresented.

Click to enlarge

We can compare last year’s results to the current data to see where women are making progress. Of the 25 leading universities for which we have data in both years, 13 schools show an increase in the number of women first-year students and 11 show a decline. At Carnegie Mellon University, there are exactly the same number of women in the entering class as was the case a year ago.

We find that the number of women in the entering class at the University of Virginia is up 9.2 percent from a year ago, the largest increase in our survey. At Duke University and Vanderbilt University the number of women entering students is up by more than 5 percent.

In contrast, the number of entering women students at CalTech is down more than 10 percent from a year ago. Princeton University, Stanford University, and Brown University also showed drops of more than 5 percent in first-year women students.

It is well known that nationwide women outpace men in college enrollments, graduation rates, and degrees earned. Because of a large and growing gender gap in enrollments at many colleges and universities, it has become easier for men to gain admission to some colleges and universities. It must be noted that just because men have a higher acceptance rate than women at a given institution does not necessarily mean that men have received an unfair admissions advantage. A particular college or university may simply have had an outstanding pool of male applicants in a given year.

Click to enlarge

We do note that many high-ranking universities are reluctant to report gender differences in acceptance rates. We will simply present the data and let readers make their own conclusions.

Of the 19 highly rated research universities that supplied data, we find that women were accepted at a higher rate than men at eight institutions. The greatest difference was at Carnegie Mellon University, which as stated is heavily focused on STEM disciplines. At this highly rated university, 32.7 percent of women were accepted for admission compared to only 21.2 percent of male applicants. Thus, there was a very large acceptance rate gap in favor of women of 11.5 percentage points.

The next highest acceptance rate gap in favor of women was 4.4 percentage points at the University of Virginia. The only other leading research universities where the accepted rate for women was one percentage point higher than the rate for men were the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University, the University of California Berkeley.

At the other end of the spectrum, Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, had the highest gender gap in acceptance rates in favor of men. Tufts accepted 21.4 percent of male applicants but only 17 percent of women applicants. At Vanderbilt University the acceptance rate for men was 4 percentage points higher for men than it was for women. At Brown University men were accepted at a rate 3.7 percentage points higher than the rate for women.

Filed Under: Featured

RSSComments (0)

Leave a Reply