Gender Discrimination in Highly Selective College Admissions

Gender in Admissions, Gender and College Admission, Ivy League and Gender Balance

Some schools receive significantly more applications from females than males (photo credit: David Emmerman).

Is there gender discrimination in highly selective college admissions? You bet there is. As any student or parent who attends a college information session at one of our nation’s elite institutions knows all too well, the mantra of these schools is their never-ending quest for diversity. They seek to admit a class that includes a cross-section not only of America’s citizens but of the world’s citizens — including African American, Latino, Native American, LGBT, veterans of our armed forces, students from Nebraska, Idaho, Ghana, and Brazil, low-income, middle-income, high-income…you name it. So it should come as no surprise that these same institutions, with the obvious exception of all-women’s colleges, strive for diversity when it comes to gender too. And by striving for diversity when it comes to gender, what we mean is these schools seek a gender balance in each incoming class.

A University Attempting to Foster Gender Parity

Now not all colleges are as successful in achieving a gender balance in their incoming class as are others. Let’s offer a case example. As our regular readers know well, we love our case examples at Ivy Coach because there’s no better way to underline a point than to tell a story. Brown University is one such institution that struggles with maintaining a gender balance. In fact, as reports Baylor Knobloch for “The Brown Daily Herald” in a piece entitled “Brown consistently admits male applicants at higher rate,” from 2001 to 2016, Brown admitted male applicants at a rate that was 3-4% higher than their female counterparts. During the 2014-2015 admissions cycle, Brown received 50% more female applicants than male applicants. Think about that! For every one male applicant to Brown, the school received 1.5 female applicants that admissions cycle. And it’s not like that particular admissions cycle was abnormal for the institution. Historically, more females tend to apply to Brown than do males. Plain and simple.

Creating A Gender Balance in Admissions Is Legal

As Knobloch writes, “Private colleges and universities like Brown are able to consider gender as a factor for admission due to a so-called ‘loophole’ in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. ‘The original Title IX, as people began to think about introducing it, was ‘no sex discrimination in any school that gets federal funds,” said Bernice Sandler, a women’s rights activist and key figure in the creation of Title IX. But lobbyists from private colleges and universities — particularly those in the Ivy League — opposed certain facets of the law and fought to maintain their ability to consider gender when admitting undergraduate students. Adding an exemption for private institutions seemed like the only way to get Title IX passed, so the modification was made to the legislation, Sander said.”

While it may not seem fair that male applicants have an easier time earning admission to Brown than do their female counterparts, it’s perfectly legal and we absolutely understand why Brown seeks to create this parity. They don’t want an incoming class that is 60% female and 40% male. They want balance. We see absolutely no harm in that. Now does that mean we don’t urge our own female students considering Brown to take this into account? Of course we do. This information may very well inspire them to apply to another school in the Early round and it’s information they should know.

What do you think about colleges attempting to create gender parity in their incoming class? Would you label it discrimination against women? Let us know your thoughts by posting a Comment below. We look forward to hearing from you no matter where you stand on this issue!

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