By TYLER BARTON and VIRGINIA HOLST/Montana State News
The male-to-female ratio is skewed at Montana State University – and statistically, a woman’s application is marginally more likely to be rejected than a man’s.
Historically, acceptance rates for men and women at Montana State University have paralleled each other. However, since 2009, a marked difference between the two began, largely in favor of male students.
In the 2000s, an average of 75.8 percent of men were accepted into MSU, roughly equal to the 73.6 percent of women. However, a stark contrast in acceptance rates came in 2009, with 67.3 percent of men being accepted, compared to a mere 59.3 percent of women.
The numbers in 2009 set a precedent. Every year since then, with the exception of 2014, the acceptance rates at MSU have favored males by a large margin – anywhere from 5 to 12 percent.
This could be due to a variety of factors. Kaitlin Mulhere, a writer for Time Magazine, says, “Most colleges aim to maintain as much gender parity on campus as possible, as the ratio of men to women can dramatically affect campus culture. But that also means some colleges have significantly higher acceptance rates for men than for women, or vice versa.
“At schools with a strong engineering or hard science bent, men generally apply in much larger numbers than women, for example.”
Montana State University started as an agriculture college, and has since developed significantly in fields of engineering and science. Though it has a variety of arts and humanities programs, many applicants consider it an excellent choice for STEM fields.
Since 2004, MSU has had a male-to-female ratio averaging at around 53 to 47 percent, according to MSU’s website. Presumably, this was a natural result of there simply being less female applicants. From 2000 to 2009, the male applicants outweighed female applicants by a significant margin.
Since then, however, women students have steadily closed the gap, until finally in 2015, female applicants outnumbered male applicants. But, the overall male-to-female ratio has largely remained the same – meaning more women are being rejected, possibly for the sake of preserving “campus culture.”
This disparity could also be due to the fact that men tend to drop out of college more often than women. In a recent study in the journal of Gender & Society, men are more likely than women to leave school rather than take on more loans. Women are more likely to accept a higher debt if it means obtaining a degree.
It is possible that by the time that these first-year, first-time freshmen have reached their senior year, there are roughly equal amounts of both men and women, and the school’s application reviewing process is reflective of this final outcome.
Whatever the reason, the Montana State University Office of Institutional Equity assures parents and students that the school does everything in its power to ensure a non-biased environment. They write, “Montana State University is dedicated to ensuring an environment of non-discrimination and equal opportunity … [we support] the University’s goals by promoting an inclusive, diverse and supportive environment for external members of the campus community and our employees and students to excel regardless of their … sex.”
Since 2010, when Waded Cruzado became the new president of MSU, the student population has increased by 21 percent – it is now well over 16,000. For comparison, the population of Bozeman is around 46,000. Time will tell if this practice of preferential admission is continued. If student growth continues its current exponential trend, it could be an issue of increasing noticeability and relevance.