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Utah women falling behind in education

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Students across the country are heading back to college. Nationally, more women than men attend post-high school schooling -- 57 percent to 43 percent. But in Utah, women are falling behind men in education.

According to a study commissioned by the Utah System of Higher Education, Utahns believe men should have more education than women. In fact, only 35 percent of women and 39 percent of men believe females should get a bachelor's degree.

Some students speculate the reason for fewer women attending college.

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"I think in our religion it's easy to just get married and just have the guy take care of us," says LDS Business College student, Ayesha Magalvi. "But I was raised differently where I have to fend for myself."

Many women at LDS Business College have educational goals and firm plans for the future.

"I want to go to the U, start pre-nursing and then get into the nursing program," student Raquel Lamb says. "My parents have raised me to finish school."

Student Abby Brammer is working toward a similar goal. "Get a degree in English literature and a minor in biology or history, and then go to law school," she explains.

When you look at occupations as a group, nationally women are a lot more likely to go into higher-paying, what used to be male-dominated occupations than are Utah women.

–Lecia Parks Langston

While these women have high goals for their education, statistics show that overall, women in Utah are falling behind the rest of the nation.

"Here in Utah even though we think we are really well educated, our men are doing well at getting a college education, while our women are not doing quite as well," explains economist Lecia Parks Langston.

Utah is last in the nation for the percentage of female students enrolled in postsecondary institution and culture may play a part. "I think culturally a lot of women think they are not going to work and then they end up working," Langston says.

Whether single, divorced, married, with kids or without kids, most women in Utah will work. In fact, in 63 percent of households with school-age children both parents work. But women are not getting the education to earn better wages.

"When you look at occupations as a group, nationally women are a lot more likely to go into higher-paying, what used to be male-dominated occupations than are Utah women," Langston explains.

However, some women in Utah are going into higher-paying fields. Women studying digital sciences at Neumont University in South Jordan are finding it will pay off when they graduate.

"They have more positions to consider and they make more money when they start out of school," says Stacy Cahoon Hughes, communications manager at Neumont University.

There are a lot of opportunities that women in Utah are missing because they don't have a higher education. The state launched a two-year project to understand and motivate more young women to enter and stay in school long enough to obtain a college degree.

The Utah Woman and Education Project is focused on disseminating findings, initiating dialogue, providing resources and leading change.


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