College is a tough transitional period for every student, but can be especially difficult for college-aged women who can often face a litany of gender discrimination. Sexism in higher education extends well beyond the classroom, though: the amount of money in a child’s college fund can actually be influenced by gender. According to new research, girls get less money for college from their parents than boys, and the reason why is infuriating.
These gender-based disparities were found by multiple sources, including a study conducted by T. Rowe Price, a global investment firm. The January study polled 238 households with all boys and 155 households with all girls, and found that parents with girl-only households saved less money for college on average, as the Wall Street Journal reported. While 50 percent of parents put aside college-savings for their sons, only 39 percent of parent put aside money for their daughters. Additionally, the study found 83 percent of the parents in boy-only households reported contributing (at least) monthly to their child’s college fund, while 70 percent of parents reported consistently contributing in girl-only households.
Roger Young, a senior financial planner at T. Rowe Price, told the Wall Street Journal, “We certainly see in society more broadly there are gaps between incomes of men and women. That might be factoring into their thoughts on how much they are willing to spend on college.” The study did not extensively examine the reasons why parents saved less money for their daughters, but Young said the research adds “to the body of literature of gender issues in society.”
An April 2017 study carried out by LendEDU, a student loan consolidation and refinancing company, saw similar findings as the recent T. Rowe Price study. After polling over 1,400 college graduates, LendEDU discovered a mere 6 percent of women reported their college tuition had been nearly paid in full by their parents, compared to 10 percent of men. Moreover, the poll found 50 percent of female graduates were given zero financial assistance from parents, while only 43 percent of male graduates reported the same lack of financial support.
Dr. Shaun Harper, a professor of education and business at the University of Southern California and executive director of the USC Race and Equity Center, explained to the Wall Street Journal that a possible reason for the gendered difference in college savings could be caused by parents believing boys will not receive merit-based scholarships. However, the Journal also mentioned a 2012 study conducted by National Center for Education Statistics that showed women receive merit-based funding at a rate only .5 percent higher than men, but actually received $400 less in overall grant funding. This sexist belief echoes the faulty arguments made against Affirmative Action that claim these provisions are reverse racism, and claim Affirmative Action actually contributes to discrimination against white men; notably, these arguments are widely perpetuated by white supremacists and “meninists.”
This newly-discovered financial disparity is troubling, and just adds to the steeper disadvantages women face while pursuing higher education. Though millions of more women attend college than men — especially Black women, who are the most educated group in the U.S. — sexism is rampant in colleges across the country. A 2015 study from Harvard University showed college campuses are chock full of sexist and racist microaggressions (aka, behaviors that passively indicate gender or racial bias). Not only did the study find professors disproportionately call on white male students, but actual course materials overwhelmingly lacked representation of women or people of color. College-aged women have also reported more vitriolic forms of sexism on campus, including sexual harassment, assault, and disgusting chants about rape from fraternities. This may sound grim, but if you are a woman attending college, sexism is almost guaranteed to affect your experience on campus, and your bank account.
“Parents should give a good hard look and make sure they are treating their children fairly and recognizing the potential of both their boys and their girls,” Young told The Wall Street Journal. The trend of sexism among college students is just a microcosm, and indicative of a much larger cultural issue. Our society must begin to value the work of women, including those in college.