Every year, Salt Lake Community College, along with other universities and community colleges in Utah compare their enrollment status to the national average to see where the importance of higher education falls with our next generations in Utah. In the past, we’ve seen an outstanding number of women not only enrolling in higher education institutes but also receiving degrees and passing the national average by leaps and bounds. Unfortunately, in the last decade or so, every year the number of women enrolling in colleges, and even finishing high school, has dropped significantly-even to the point of dropping below the national average.
The question arises, why? Why such the drastic drop in interest? Dr. Susan R. Madsen, Utah Women & Education Project Director and Associate Professor of Management at Utah Valley University, asked the same question only she wouldn’t settle with guesses. A year and a half later, she has just about wrapped up a research project that hopes to give justice to the unanswered question concerning why young women choose never to attend college and why some chose to drop out after only one or two semesters.
Kathy Hurd, SLCC’s University Center Director, has been helping coordinate the project research for those interested in being surveyed in the metropolitan areas surrounding Salt Lake City.
“The purpose of the research is to find out why so many women in Utah compared to the national average do not continue their education,” says Hurd, “The executive summary states that women in Utah were the highest in the nation to continue their education beyond high school, now all we are seeing year after year is a continued decline.”
This project is hoping to survey 250 women between the ages of 18-24, but the facilitators have been finding it more difficult than expected to get women to participate in the study. Hurd chalks it up to the inability of getting women from the more rural areas to show up. The survey is suppose to take no longer than 2-hours and is composed of a question-based interview that analyzes the psychosocial metrics for how people make decisions.
“Questions that are asked will evaluate sociological, cultural influences in a decision and we will use the data we find to see what efforts can be put in place to help young women finish school,” says Hurd.
A part of conducting this research may happen to be the fact that enrollment statistics easily affect funding the state receives for higher education. The IPEDS report, which is the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System of the US Department of Education, is required of all institutions and Hurd tells us that ultimately funding is affected by enrollment.
Pressure from the Utah State Office of Education may have been in place that jump-started this research project. The demographics of those interviewed will not be released until the final report to see if there is any cultural or social pull in this drastic decline in women who have chosen not to finish college.
“All of Utah is participating including the State Office of Education, the Board of Regions, as well as churches so that all levels and many resources as possible can be involved so we can redirect young women,” Hurd says.
The results of the research study are still being processed and any further questions concerning the project can be addressed to Dr. Susan R. Madsen at firstname.lastname@example.org.