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Report Shows Females Lead in College Plans, Enrollment and Degrees

A new report by the federal government shows high school girls outpacing boys when it comes to planning for college, enrolling, and completing a degree. Yet boys are doing better on Advanced Placement exams and college-entrance tests.

Looking at education trends by gender and across racial/ethnic groups, the National Center for Education Statistics' Higher Education: Gaps in Access and Persistence Study reports among the freshman class that began in 2008-09, a lower percentage of males (71.8 percent) than females (78.9 percent) graduated with a regular high school diploma.

The NCES asked 9th graders to indicate the highest level of education they expected to achieve. Fifty-nine percent of the girls expected to complete a bachelor's or graduate/professional degree compared to 53 percent of boys. This pattern held for white males and females (56 percent vs. 63 percent) and black males and females (54 percent vs. 61 percent), according to researchers.

In May 2010, about 58 percent of students who took an AP exam received a passing score in at least one subject area, with boys outperforming girls 61 percent to 54 percent. On ACT tests, 28 percent of males met or exceeded the ACT college-readiness score in all four subject areas, compared to 22 percent of females.

Senior girls with plans for college were more likely to consult a high school counselor, teacher, or coach for information on college-entrance requirements than boys (86 percent vs. 83 percent). Also in their senior year, females had more connections with college representatives, and 80 percent had reviewed college websites or publications for information on college-entrance requirements, while just 68 percent of males had done the same.

What are parents doing to encourage student success? The report found that while the majority of parents checked to make sure their children's homework was completed, parents were more likely to check a son's than a daughter's by 68 percent vs. 61 percent.

Since 1980, women have led men in college enrollment, with the latest figures in 2010 showing 47 percent of female high school graduates enrolling and 39 percent of men. Of students who started college in 2003-04, about 17 percent of males and 15 percent of females dropped out a year later.

As for completion of a bachelor's degree in six years, women were more successful with 61 percent finishing, compared to men at 56 percent.

To analyze and address educational attainment differences by gender and race, Congress, through the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, directed the U.S. Department of Education to produce the report.

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