When first-year male applications hovered at 33 percent this fall, the Office of Admission panicked at the thought of the greatest gender imbalance at the university in the past 32 years.
“Trying to figure out why less and less males are applying and enrolling at TCU is the one thing in my years at TCU that has really irritated me,” said Ray Brown, dean of admission. “We’ve made great gains everywhere else, but we have not made gains at all in the gender breakout.”
In hopes of raising the male percentage to around 40 percent, the admissions office had to implement new strategies, Brown said.
“We had to do something I absolutely hated, and it worked beautifully,” Brown said. “We developed a ‘BROchure’ meant entirely for guys. It was hideous, but it worked and we ended up at 38 percent.”
The brochure, titled “The Big XII Reasons Why Guys Should Come to TCU,” listed tailgating, all-you-can-eat in Market Square, rec sports, team projects, Frog Camp and a 24/7 library as reasons why men should “Man up! Be a Horned Frog!”
Each year, the Office of Admission buys the names and contact information of high school seniors who appear to be likely to enroll at the university and adds them to an inquiry pool. The potential students added to the inquiry will receive emails and letters from the university, Brown said.
This year, 400,000 names for the university’s inquiry pool, of which a disproportionate number of male names were purchased.
Since 1980, the percentage of first-year males at the university has ranged from a high of 47 percent in 1983 to a low of 37 percent in 2003, according to a study done by Brown.
This year, men make up 38.2 percent of the first-year class, just over one percent more than the lowest number recorded in the past 32 years, according to Brown.
According to the 2012 TCU Fact Book, 3,427 of the 8,456 undergraduate students are male, compared to 5,029 females. Last year, 3,364 of the 8,229 undergraduate students were male, compared to 4,865 females.
For the past five years, the gender ratio has remained stagnant at around 60 percent female and 40 percent male, according to Brown's study.
Hoping to find some answers, Brown said he is going to commission a study on the university's gender imbalance.
“Everyone has an idea of why the gender gap is the way it is, and I’ve got an idea that everyone is right,” he said. “I’m just trying to figure out who is most right, and then we can attack and make some headway instead of just guessing.”
The gender imbalance in higher education has significant societal ramifications, Brown said.
“Women who are graduating from college will be graduating into a society where the spousal pool is significantly less educated," Brown said. "A bunch of males with high school diplomas will be making half of what their college-educated wives make.”
Although there is no clear answer to this problem, Brown said he has a few theories as to why fewer men apply to the university.
“The way we advertise TCU to the general public, we talk about small classes, personal attention, access to faculty. The reality is that those things don’t resonate with guys,” Brown said. “The strength of our university doesn’t resonate with males who want to be anonymous on large mega-campuses."
Jack Higginson, a first-year business major, chose TCU because he loved the weather, the southern culture and the football. “I also knew there were a lot of pretty girls down here, and that they outnumbered guys.”
Johnny Bauer, a first-year business major, came to TCU because he felt the “at home” feeling when he took a campus tour.
Brown also said he thought that fewer men are informed about the university because they are less likely to attend events for prospective students such as "Mondays at TCU."
“Why are there so many women at Monday at TCU? Because they take the admission process seriously,” Brown said. “Men recently seem to be apathetic about the application process and aren’t attending the informational sessions.”
Brown said he hopes that his upcoming study will provide some insight into the gender gap at the university and at other institutions of higher learning across the nation.
“If this study I’m commissioning doesn't give an answer for gender imbalance, I will go to my grave thinking this is the toughest thing I’ve ever done, not being able to crack this nut,” he said.