LONG BEACH (CBSLA.com) — A growing gender gap in higher education enrollment is prompting efforts to recruit and retain more male students at one California university.
Cal State Long Beach is among the schools where female students outnumber male students by more than 15 percent. The numbers are even lower for Latino and African American men.
“I looked around and I realized there are literally no dudes in here,” said freshman Anthony Elam.
In the late 1960s, higher education institutions made a push to recruit greater numbers of women to attend college. Twenty years ago, female students started to outnumber male students, a trend that has continued.
Three years ago, Cal State Long Beach launched the Men’s Success Initiative, an effort to get more students to enroll and keep them from falling through the academic cracks.
Brett Waterfield, Director of Student Life and Development at Cal State Long Beach told KNx 1070′s Ron Kilgore the initiative is an effort to prevent the frustration that can cause students to drop out.
“Our message is: you need to be engaged with the tutoring center, not when you start struggling going to the tutoring center but right now. Here it is, here’s the people, here’s how they can help you,” he said.
According to Waterfield, the lack of men from underrepresented minority groups attending college has been exacerbated by the economic downturn.
“As the economy kind of went down and started to tank, guys had to be more accountable to their families so they’re asking folks to go into the workforce right away maybe,” Waterfieldsaid. “Particularly when you’re looking at low-income households, you know they don’t always have the luxury of sending their son to school.”
Waterfield said the school is hoping to reach out to prospective students before high school in the hopes of encouraging them to picture a future attending college.
“We encourage our guys that are here to bring their little brothers to campus, their nephews next door neighbors, and let them spend a day on the college campus so they can begin to see themselves in years to come in that same role,” he said.
Schools also must contend with a performance gap, according to Waterfield, adding that boosting the graduation rate for minority men has been a challenge.
“How they achieve is really another thing that’s just as important and significant, because if you have less numbers here and then they’re not achieving at the same rate as the women are, you kind of got a double whammy,” he said.
To help boost the achievement rate, the university is offering tutoring and counseling to help students transition from their childhood communities to college life.
According to Waterfield, programs like the Men’s Success Initiative have helped male students become more comfortable asking for help.
“So it’s kind of taken away some of that macho bravado and let these guys know, hey, we are here to assist you. You are going to hit a bump in the road. There’s no doubt about that; you are going to hit the bump in the road. It’s what you do when you hit that bump which is critical,” he said.
Meantime, some students say the gender gap is not without certain benefits.
Sophomore Isela Moreila said attending classes with a majority of women have encouraged her to participate more in the classroom.
“I feel more comfortable speaking up. I guess for the fact I grew up with the majority of guys being in the classroom I felt like I couldn’t speak my own opinion,” said Moreila.
Freshman Anthony Elam agrees that being among among the minority can have its perks.
“Being a man around campus, you get to enjoy yourself a little bit more when there’s women,” he said.