Men Are Bypassing College, and That's Fine

Men Are Bypassing College, and That's Fine
(Image credit: A.J. Kaufman)

Wall Street Journal story earlier this month explained how a generation of young men is abandoning college.

America’s universities now enroll roughly three women for every two men, the largest gender gap in the history of higher education, and it’s getting even wider.


While women have earned more bachelor’s degrees since the 1980s, our colleges now enroll 1.5 million fewer students than five years ago, with men accounting for more than 70 percent of the decline.

To progressives, who value diplomas and credentials far more than conservatives, this is perturbing.

A millennial writer recently opined in The Atlantic that “the world has changed dramatically, but the ideology of masculinity isn’t changing fast enough to keep up.”

I am not certain what Derek Thompson meant. What is true is that this should surprise no one.

Long before female students outnumbered men on college campuses, they outperformed boys in high school. Girls in elementary school are less likely to misbehave, and get better grades than boys across the major subjects. In high school, they also tend to pay closer attention to college requirements in the first place, adding more extracurriculars and therefore compiling longer resumes.

Thompson, who graduated from Northwestern in 2008 and immediately joined the liberal magazine, also played class warfare.

He noted that  “men—especially in poor areas where college attainment is low and may even be falling—have struggled to adapt to a 21st-century economy, where a high school diploma alone is often insufficient to earn a middle-class wage” and “without college degrees in deindustrialized America have been adrift for decades. They face the simultaneous shocks of lost jobs, disintegrating nuclear families, and rising deaths of despair in their communities. As 20th-century institutions have crumbled around them, these men have withdrawn from organized religion.”


It’s an oversimplification by a parochial 35 year old. He refuses to acknowledge that due to the saturation of undergraduate degrees, especially in liberal arts, doors don’t open as quickly to bachelor’s degree recipients.

And as PJ Media’s Rick Moran recently concluded, “Where college used to be a necessity to get ahead — a fact that allowed universities to gouge parents for a hundred thousand dollars for the privilege of allowing their kids to attend a quality school — it can, for many men, now be avoided.”

I travel to most states by car each year and read Tim Carney’s Alienated America, so I understand the reality of the dying towns. But I’ve also worked with blue-collar railroaders for 11 years; many of these people earn six-figure salaries with benefits, and almost none finished college. Nearly all are married and have strong social capital, despite reportage to the contrary.

“These young men aren’t always lazy. In many cases, they’re making tough but smart choices about the costs and benefits of a college education,” the Washington Examiner’s Kaylee McGhee White explained more realistically. “College is expensive, the cost is only going up, and unfortunately, two-year or four-year degrees no longer guarantee graduates an automatic job the way they once did. Many of the young men who said they chose not to go to college said they did so because they didn’t see enough value in the degree to justify the expenses. They’d rather find a trade skill that pays well immediately and figure out the rest later.”


McGhee herself is only a couple years out of school, but she attended Hillsdale College. Maybe that’s the key.

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