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High School Males' Perception of Education: The New Gender Gap

Michael McGauvran, Johnson & Wales University


This descriptive, qualitative study explored high school senior males' perceptions and attitudes towards undergraduate education. Double-layer design focus group interviews with male high school seniors and modified focus group interviews with high school guidance counselors were used to explore student perceptions of education and the factors or considerations that influenced their decision to attend, or not to attend, college. In the last three decades, the percentage of women entering and graduating from U.S. colleges and universities has risen steadily (Adebayo, 2008; Whitmire, 2010). Women in the U.S. earned 57% of the bachelor's degrees nationwide in 2005, and the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) predicts this percentage will continue to grow (Adebayo, 2008; NCES, 2009a). Conversely, many researchers have documented the decreasing percentage of males in undergraduate institutions (Adebayo, 2008; Clayton, Hewitt & Gaffney, 2004; Weaver-Hightower, 2003). Young men today, for the first time in American history, are less likely to be college-educated than their fathers (Mortenson, 2011). Why are not more men choosing to attend college? As higher education serves "as an avenue for social mobility" (Newman, Couturier, & Scurry, 2004, p. 21), it is essential that both genders are encouraged to increase their participation in post-secondary education. A review of the literature found that few scholarly studies exist regarding the causes of the growing gender imbalance in undergraduate institutions, and those studies' conclusions often differ on the cause of the gender imbalance. A total of six focus group interviews (N = 6), two per high school, were conducted and data saturation was achieved (Krueger & Casey, 2009). A modified focus group was accomplished with guidance counselors and teachers at each of the three schools (N = 3) to aid in triangulation and bolster the trustworthiness and credibility of the data (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). The findings suggest that changing demographics, education policy, and job opportunities available to males without a college education are contributing to the new gender gap. With this understanding, education leaders may be able to shape policy, curriculum and/or programs to encourage an increasing number of young men to consider college.

Subject Area

Education Policy|Educational psychology|Secondary education|Gender studies

Recommended Citation

McGauvran, Michael, "High School Males' Perception of Education: The New Gender Gap" (2011). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3456400.