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Why So Many Young Men Are Abandoning College Degrees

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Pursuing higher education

A recent study revealed a concerning trend of a significant number of men opting out of pursuing higher education, resulting in a noticeable disparity between college-educated men and women. According to the Pew Research Center, there has been a notable decline in the enrollment of male Hispanic high school graduates in four-year colleges.

Attendance rate

The attendance rate dropped from 42 percent in 2011 to 33 percent in 2022. Similarly, there was a considerable decrease among white males, with college attendance decreasing from 49 percent in 2011 to 40 percent in 2022.

High school graduates

This disparity was particularly pronounced among white high school graduates, as female white graduates showed the highest likelihood of college enrollment at 50 percent. One of the reasons behind the decreasing number of young men pursuing college education is attributed to a rising skepticism towards higher education and the significant student debt that often accompanies it, as noted by experts.


In 2022, the overall college enrollment of individuals aged 18 to 24 had decreased by 1.2 million since its peak in 2011, coinciding with the escalating national student debt reaching $1.75 trillion.

College degree

Furthermore, there is a trend among some businesses to eliminate the requirement for a college degree. A survey conducted in November among 800 U.S. companies by revealed that 45 percent of these companies plan to remove bachelor’s degree prerequisites for certain positions in the upcoming year.

Small businesses

Additionally, a recent survey of 70,000 small businesses indicated that 67 percent of the employers surveyed believe that college graduates lack adequate preparation for the workforce. “The higher ed system has worked itself out of a job,” RedBalloon CEO Andrew Crapuchettes said. “By losing focus on the mission of preparing their students for their career, they’ve become a non-factor, or even a negative factor, in helping job seekers find a job.”

Success in careers

According to a 2021 Pew Research study, men may have a higher tendency to believe that a bachelor’s degree is not essential for achieving success in their careers.


“There’s been a big backlash against expensive 4-year colleges whereas trade schools or apprenticeships are on the rise,” Kan said. “Men, especially white men, are much more likely to enter the trades or enter the technology industry, where a degree also isn’t required.”


In general, only 39 percent of young men who have graduated from high school are currently enrolled in college, a decrease from 47 percent in 2011. “A lot of men don’t see the point of a degree when it’s so expensive and they feel a lot of nihilism about their job prospects post-college,” Athena Kan, the Chief Executive Officer of the career and technical training platform Dreambound, shared with Newsweek.

Labor shortages

“The labor shortages of the past few years have hit the trades harder than other industries,” Crapuchettes told Newsweek. “High school grads, particularly men who are attracted to the trades, are finding that they can earn good salaries without racking up tens of thousands in college debt.”

Lack of desire

For adults who did not possess a bachelor’s degree and were not currently attending college, men were more inclined than women to express that they chose not to attend college due to a lack of desire or because they believed additional education was unnecessary for their desired occupation.

Financial constraints

Both men and women cited financial constraints as a significant factor for not pursuing a four-year college degree at similar rates.

Underlying causes

The issue begins at an early stage: The underlying causes of the increasing disparity extend beyond the choices made by men and women after completing high school.

Better grades

“It also starts earlier than college,” Kan said. “Women are more likely to get accepted into college than men, and women are more likely to have better grades than men overall. There’s been some research that says it’s because girls have fewer disciplinary problems and are better at planning ahead, conscientiousness overall.”

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