Universities nationwide are grappling with how to balance the male to female ratio as the number of female applicants grows faster than that of males, but the trend does not seem to have reached USC and experts speculate there are a number of reasons why.
“What we’re seeing right now is a trend of higher numbers of females applying and enrolling, with over 60 percent enrolling in higher education. The percentage of men is much lower,” said Dr. Tatiana Melguizo, an assistant professor at the Rossier School of Education.
At USC, this year’s admitted class is 46 percent male and 54 percent female — far more balanced than the national average. Tim Brunold, director of undergraduate admission, said the balance of students admitted reflects a balanced applicant pool.
“Usually, the percentage points don’t vary much between applicants and admitted students,” he said.
Brunold said USC’s percentages have been fairly constant for the last couple of years.
He said he thinks the university might have escaped the national trend because of the strengths of the USC course offerings.
“We have such a range of programs, it’s very easy to see there are certain academic disciplines that lean toward one gender or another,” he said. “But here, with the size we are and the number of programs we offer, any imbalance that is affected by these factors is mitigated.”
Melguizo noted that a number of factors distinct to USC might be contributing to USC’s anomalous percentages.
“USC might be giving a premium to low income students of color,” Melguizo said, noting that the two groups that are the “most vulnerable” are black males and Latino males.
The strength of USC’s science and engineering programs might also play a role, Melguizo said. She noted that if this is the case, it might not be a positive thing.
“The other thing to consider is that we have strong science programs and a number of students who want to major in those are male,” she said. “Males are overrepresented and the females are underrepresented. This might mean we aren’t making the effort we need to be making to recruit females at the undergraduate level. This might not be such an encouraging story gender-wise,” she said.
Bilawal Sidhu, a freshman majoring in computer science and business administration, said there is a significantly lower percentage of female students in his computer science class.
“There are maybe six or seven women in a full lecture hall, which is like 50 students,” Sidhu said.
Brian Bechtel an undeclared freshman, has also observed that certain courses tend more toward one gender or another.
“My sociology class, I would say, looks like it’s maybe 50/50, but in my econ class it’s more guys,” he said.
Brunold emphasized that the admissions office does not currently factor gender into the decisions process.
“We know the gender of an applicant, but it does not factor into the decision. We certainly do pay attention — if we ever saw a trend toward a troubling imbalance, then we might reconsider how we look at gender,” he said. “But we have not yet been faced with that problem. We are looking for the students who will be most successful in their intended discipline.”