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Utah's higher-education gender gap growing

By KSL.com | Posted - Nov 12th, 2010 @ 6:38pm



SALT LAKE CITY -- Researchers conducting a two-year study called "Utah Women and Education" released the results of their research Friday.

Research Director Susan Madsen, a professor at Utah Valley University, says the data shows many young women don't understand the benefits of getting college degrees. Further, she says women have either heard little or nothing regarding financial aid programs available for women wanting to gain a higher education.

"Those in our sample or study who discussed college with their parents at a young age not just attend college but graduated from college," Madsen said.

Madsen also found that many woman start -- but never finish -- college, waiting for their children to grow up.

The project focused on understanding how family, school, religion, and values shape young women and their motivation to obtain a college degree.

Across the country, women make up the majority of college students -- but not in Utah, where woman tend to marry young and have lots of children, keeping them out of college.

Utah's high-education officials say they are worried about this trend. Since the 1990s, Utah started seeing fewer women than men attend college.

Nationally, women make up the majority of college students at 57 percent compared with 49 percent in Utah, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Women are most scarce at the University of Utah (44 percent) and Utah Valley University (43 percent).

The Board of Regents hopes to increase the portion of Utah adults with degrees from 39 percent to at least 56 percent by 2020.

Achieving that goal will require getting Utah women to participate at the same rates as men -- or as women in other states.

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Story written with contributions from The Associated Press with its information from The Salt Lake Tribune.

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