Utah women fall behind in education

womencharts-webcopyThe Utah Women and Education Project has completed its first year of research, which intended to discover why enrollment in and completion of post secondary education by women in Utah is so low.

Their first year also coincided with the release of their second of four briefs describing their research and findings thus far.

“A big part of our research is collecting data from young women who have chosen not to get a college education or have gone to college for only a couple semesters then dropped out,” said Dr. Susan Madsen, UVU Associate Professor of Management and director of the project.

According to statistics, from 1940 until the year 2000, women in Utah were above the national average when it came to educational attainment. In 1993, however,  female educational attainment began to decline. In 2001, Utah fell below the national average.

“No one knows exactly at this point why there was a decline,” Madsen said. “One guess is that [the young women] and their parents don’t have a broader understanding of the value of higher education.”

The project is also looking at the different struggles and barriers that women might encounter when completing their education and the different resources schools have to offer.

“Many people don’t realize that a math lab would be considered a resource, but if someone can’t pass their math class, [she] may drop out,” said Nicolle Johson, UVU student and assistant to Dr. Madsen for this project.

Another problem is that the women who are obtaining degrees aren’t pursuing ones that will lead to higher paying jobs, a higher quality of life and a better economy for Utah. Utah’s post secondary institutions are seeing lower numbers of female enrollment in the science, technology, engineering, math and management fields. When it comes to health related fields, Utah keeps decent pace with the national average.

“With their education, [women] can be a bigger influence in their communities and churches,” Madsen said. “One class, just one class at a time, can do so much for a woman.”

The project’s research will continue for another year and the third brief is expected to come out this fall. They are hoping to have more answers as to why Utah is facing this dilemma. To view the first and second brief visit http://www.UVU.edu/WEP

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