U of I research digs deeper into college ‘go-on’ gender gap

Idaho’s college gender gap is already well-established: young women are more likely to attend college than young men.

New research from the University of Idaho took a deeper look into the gap, and found one possible underlying cause. Young men who place a premium of finding a job they love are less likely to attend college than young women who share the same view.

“This despite the fact that just two of the 20 ‘hottest jobs’ in Idaho only require a high school diploma and the wage gap between diploma-only and degreed students is so wide,” said Jean Henscheid, a research scientist at the Boise-based McClure Center for Public Policy. “Even armed with these facts, young men may still reject college.”

The McClure Center released its latest research on the college go-on rate Monday. It’s a followup to research the center released a year ago, based on 2015 surveys of 385 high school graduates.

Among other new findings from the U of I study:

  • Hispanic graduates are more skeptical about the value of postsecondary education than non-Hispanic graduates. Finances were also a greater concern for Hispanic graduates than non-Hispanic graduates.
  • Several new initiatives could make a difference in improving Idaho’s languid college attendance rates. Dual credit programs are skyrocketing, Idaho schools are just starting to spend their share of $5 million in new money to hire college and career counselors, and students appear to be responding to “direct admission” letters that ensure qualified high school seniors a spot at state college’s and universities. “None (of these initiatives) is mature enough to evaluate thoroughly, although several are promising,” researchers said.

Idaho’s college “go-on” rate has become a recurring theme in the debate over K-12 policy. Since 2010, the state’s political, education and business leaders have coalesced behind one overarching education goal: They want 60 percent of the state’s 25- to 34-year-olds to hold some postsecondary degree or certificate, and by 2020.

Despite this public focus, the go-on rate actually dropped to 46 percent in 2015, casting even more doubt on the prospects for the “60 percent goal.”

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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