In 1972, equal participation became the focus in higher education. Not only were more people realizing that a college education was increasingly important, but there was a new interest in ensuring that women had equal access to the benefits of a college education as well.
This year saw the passage of Title IX, a landmark law that sought to increase equal protections for women within education. Title IX was part of the Education Amendments of 1972, which included laws and regulations for higher education, vocational education, elementary, and secondary education. Title IX made it illegal to exclude, deny benefits from, or discriminate against any individual on the basis of gender.
As women’s perspectives became central to the narrative of the college experience, the CIRP Freshman Survey examined a range of activities men and women participated in during their last year in high school.
Specifically, a new set of questions asked students whether specific topics applied to them in high school:
- During the past year I: played a musical instrument
- During the past year I: visited an art gallery or museum
- While in high school I: was a member of a scholastic honor society
- While in high school I: won a varsity letter in basketball or football
- While in high school I: won a varsity letter in another sport
- While in high school I: edited the high school paper, year-book, or literary magazine
- During the past year I: drank beer
In general, college freshmen were engaging in a wide variety of experiences and accomplishments that shaped their lives prior to entering college. For example, 33.2% of the respondents indicated that they had played a musical instrument in the past year and 54.4% had visited an art gallery or museum. Gender differences particularly stand out within this bank of questions. For instance, 32.5% of women indicated that they were members of a scholastic honor society, compared to only 20.9% of men. This same pattern holds for editing the high school paper, year-book, or literary magazine, with 18.2% of women responding that they had participated in one or more of these activities, compared to only 9.9% of men.
However, when it comes to athletics, we see the opposite trend holds true. 36.9% of male freshmen indicated that they had won a varsity letter in a sport other than basketball or football, compared to only 13.9% of females. The contrast is even more apparent when looking only at basketball or football, with 26% of males stating that they had won a varsity letter in these sports, as opposed to only 4.5% of females.
Finally, for this freshman class, nearly half of the women came from the top quarter of their graduating class (49.8%), significantly higher than the 38.1% of the men who did so. These differences between men and women reveal different patterns of experiences that shape the lives of students prior to college. While women tend to have more scholastic and academic experiences (e.g., honor society, editor, top of their class), men tend to participate in athletics at much higher rates (e.g. varsity letters). The recent passage of Title IX would begin to play a role in how these experiences shifted (or didn’t) in the years to come.
Did you know…
67.4% of all entering freshmen agreed somewhat or strongly that parents should be discouraged from having large families.