SALT LAKE CITY -- The findings are still in the preliminary stages, but early results show of a new study reveal many young Utah women associate education with long-term employment.
As a result, these women don't see the point in going to college or getting any type of post-secondary education.
"We're looking at young women's values and perceptions about higher education," says Dr. Susan Madsen, associate professor of management at Utah Valley University.
If that set of young women believes that a college education is really only about working and having a career, then you can understand why they might not think it's important to go to college.
–Dr. Susan Madsen
The two-year Utah Women and Education Project (UWEP) is an effort within Utah to understand and ultimately motivate more young women to pursue higher education.
One part of the study's early findings shows that perhaps cultural attitudes might be influencing young Utah women to skip higher education altogether. The perception among these women is they don't plan having a career after marriage.
"If that set of young women believes that a college education is really only about working and having a career," explains Madsen, "then you can understand why they might not think it's important to go to college."
The survey seeks to find who and what are influencing young women's choices in deciding to attend college.
"Young women and maybe even their parents that influence them don't understand the broader value of education," says Madsen.
According to national education databases, Utah used to lead the nation in young men and women attending college. Now it seems attitudes about marriage among young women might influence those decisions.
"When you look at the students that are enrolled in higher education across the nation, about 57 percent are women and in Utah we're 49 percent so we're well below the national average," Madsen says.
Madsen also says even the number of young men attending college has dropped in Utah, a trend that could hurt potential business growth in the state.
"For many decades we've been saying we have a higher educated population, that's one of the things that we have touted as Utahns to businesses," says Madsen. "Come to Utah because we have more educated folks here. We're kind of losing that advantage."
Madsen says the final results of this two-year study will be important to other Utah sectors, not just businesses.
"It is a concern to the Utah system of higher education, to the commissioner, to the governor's office," says Madsen.
Overall, Madsen says the people who can truly make a difference on Utah's young adults pursuing college studies or any post-secondary education, particularly young women, are "parents, high-school counselors, high-school teachers, middle-school teachers," she explains. "People in religious settings and relatives of young women."
The final results of the Utah Women and Education Project are due Nov. 12.
Dr. Madsen is set to speak about the project at the Democratic Woman of Utah County's October meeting:
- Tuesday, Oct. 19
- 12 p.m.
- La Jolla Groves at Riverwoods
- 4801 N. University Avenue, Ste. 610, Provo
- $16 per person