Although women nationwide enroll in and obtain degrees from institutions of higher education at a greater rate than men, these are not the dynamics seen throughout Utah.
Dr. Susan Madsen, associate professor of Management, began researching this anomaly in May and will continue to do so through fall of 2010 at the request of Utah Commissioner of Higher Education, William A. Sederburg.
According to Madsen, the nation resides at 57 percent female enrollment, while Utah’s main public institutions are at 49 percent with UVU far lower, at 44 percent. Many are concerned about the implications of this low percentage.
With a grant from the Perkins Leadership Fund, as well as funding from the commissioner’s office, multiple UVU departments, Wheeler Machinery Company and a few private sources, the project has received considerable support.
“The project has really taken on a life of it’s own and gained statewide momentum,” Madsen said. “There is some wonderful energy from people who have long recognized this need.”
Others involved with the Women and Education Project include UVU faculty, staff and administrators as well as several interns and volunteers.
The secondary research, to be concluded in December, will involve an examination of existing literary resources and data as well as an assessment of local initiatives. A written report to be released in January will detail the findings and highlight the value of higher education for women in Utah.
“The college experience is incredibly important for young women in developing leadership skills as well as values and competencies which will prepare them for whatever life offers,” Madsen said. “The more preparation they have the more opportunities will be available to them.”
This issue has become particularly critical because the state divorce rate has increased, leaving many undereducated women without the ability to support their families and reducing them to conditions of poverty.
“Not only are people who are more educated better able to support their children, they are also healthier, more involved in their communities and more capable of making decisions,” Madsen said. “Even if a woman doesn’t plan on working, she should know there are so many other reasons to go to college.”
The primary research, to take place between January of 2010 and October 2010, will conduct practical studies aimed at identifying the root cause of low college enrollment and high dropout rates. It will also explore factors including parental influence and previous educational experience.
Once the data is collected and analyzed, the mission will be to design and develop initiatives to encourage a growth in higher education enrollment and completion of degrees by women.
“We have been given the unique role of leading out on issues dealing with women in education in the state, and it’s a really extraordinary place for UVU to be,” Madsen said.
To become involved, contact the Office of the Women and Education Project at 801-863-6888. Opportunities include grant writing, reading and research, fundraising, publicity, site work, report writing and data analysis.