Study: College coursework easier for women

By Cassie Blombaum
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 7, 2005

A new study shows that women are faring better in college than their male counterparts when it comes to academics.

According to a 2005 study by Student Monitor, commissioned by the Association of American Publishers, female college students study more, earn better grades and graduate earlier than their male peers.

About 50 percent of all college women study daily, compared with 33 percent of college men, according to the study.

The study found that students who study every day are 40 percent more likely to earn an "A" than students who do not.

Eric Weil, managing partner of Student Monitor, said this extra studying has contributed to women's overall success in college.

But the fact that women study more than men is nothing new.

"This is something that we suspected for a long time, but it's something we wanted to quantify," Weil said.

Richard Kroc, the assistant vice president of enrollment research and operations, also said women seem to excel at school starting from a young age.

"Certainly on all of the data I've ever seen starting from elementary school, women are more likely to get better grades than men at every level," Kroc said.

Kroc said he recognizes the impact studying has on women's academic success.

"I think the primary issue is how much time you spend outside of class," Kroc said. "It's no secret then that women get better grades."

Kroc said at the UA there has also been an overall significant increase in the number of women who attend college and who graduate.

"Women have better retention rates," Kroc said.

In 2003, there were 3,154 freshman women enrolled at the UA compared to 2,626 men. The next year, 81 percent of those women continued their studies, compared to 78 percent of freshman men.

Of the 2,745 freshman women enrolled in 1999, 57 percent graduated within five years. Of the 2,381 freshman men enrolled in 1999, 49 percent graduated within five years, according to the UA Fact Book.

Stacy Scarazzo, the assistant director for Higher Education of the Association of American Publishers, said the UA's numbers are consistent with the national average, with women graduating faster than men.

Nationwide, 54 percent of students graduate within six years from four-year institutions. Out of that number, 51 percent of those students are male, while 57 percent are female, Scarazzo said.

Weil said young women probably attain good study habits in elementary and secondary school and keep these habits throughout the rest of their academic careers, a statement Kroc agrees with.

"One would have to think that there are some social roots," Kroc said. "Women from an early age are encouraged to spend time studying."

Men, on the other hand, are encouraged to participate in outside activities such as sports, Kroc said.

Glenda Wilkes, a consultant in student retention with the Office of Enrollment Management, said she also believes social norms play a part in developing gendered learning patterns, which have an impact on how students behave in classrooms and workplaces.

"When parents give daughters dolls, play houses, dress up clothes and makeup kits for birthdays and other holidays, girls use those toys primarily indoors with one or two other girls, playing games in which role playing and taking turns is important," Wilkes said.

Boys, however, are taught from a young age to appreciate the outdoors, Wilkes said.

"When parents give boys balls, sports equipment, construction kits and models to build, boys use those toys primarily outdoors in competitive environments where arguing is part of the game and boasting of skill allows you to be a leader," Wilkes said.  

In these environments, Wilkes said, boys and girls become comfortable with patterns of learning that have an impact on how they behave in classrooms and workplaces.

"Not because their brains are different or their abilities differ, but because the social contexts in which they learn differ," Wilkes said.

As women continue to excel and outperform their male peers, however, the gender association with certain fields is also expected to change.

"We see fields that were traditionally dominated by men - like law, medicine - that are now traditionally female in many programs," Kroc said. "Women have chosen those fields and succeeded."

Kroc said there has also been an increase in the number of women entering the fields of natural sciences.

"I think in the natural sciences, there's been quite a bit of change," Kroc said. "Certainly (in) biology and the life sciences."