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Jessica Smith raised an arm and pointed across the lobby of the university student center like an ornithologist who had just spied a rare breed in the underbrush.
“There’s one,” she said.
It was, in fact, an unusual bird that Smith had spotted, especially on this campus: masculum collegium discipulus. A male college student. Where men once went to college in proportions far higher than women—58 percent to 42 percent as recently as the 1970s—the ratio has now almost exactly reversed.
Low-income boys in places with the most economic inequality, in particular, suffer what one study called the “economic despair” of seeing little hope for financial advancement.
“They think, ‘Well, I could just start out working in the mall and in six years make the same as a classmate who goes to college and whose first post-college job pays them less than I’ll be making then,’” Jackson said.
Men may also feel they have more alternatives to college than girls do. “For a lot of my [male] high school friends, it was just too much time,” said Smith, the orientation leader at Carlow. “They were ready to get out. As opposed to a four-year college, they could go to an 18-month [vocational-education] program and make just as much money.”
The college also waits 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 than the girls it recruits as early as November of their sophomore years.