Did you know that Utah is last in terms of the percentage of female students enrolled in college?
I did not know that until this week. I was stunned. So I went online to learn more.
According to the Utah Women and Education Project (UWEP), 49 percent of higher education students in the state are women. However, national statistics show that 57 percent of college students are women. (Go here http://www.uvu.edu/wep/ for more info on their research.)
A recent report on KSL-TV in Salt Lake City stated that one part of the study’s early findings shows that cultural attitudes might be influencing young Utah women to skip higher education altogether. The perception among these women is they don’t plan on having a career after marriage.
Let me write that again…young women don’t PLAN having a career after marriage.
So what exactly is the PLAN for these young women?
How can a young woman possibly know what the next 50 or so years will bring?
Here are my thoughts regarding young women who want to forego a college education:
Thought #1: Have a personal financial plan that is more than a hope and a dream. And a back-up plan. And a back-up plan for your back-up plan. Have short-term and long-term plans.
Maybe you won’t get married. Maybe you’ll get married and it won’t last. Maybe you’ll be like me and not get married until you’re 27. Maybe you’ll marry an awesome guy that doesn’t get an awesome paycheck. Maybe you'll raise a family during the next great recession.
Guess what? A man is not a financial plan.
Thought #2: College brings about much more than a diploma.
Sure, a diploma is a great way to get a job. But it's much more than a piece of paper.
The societal benefits of a college education include a healthier lifestyle, increased community involvement, elevated interest in social issues, and crucial communications skills.
Societies with higher levels of education are safer and have less poverty. Research shows that educated women live longer and enjoy a higher quality of life.
Thought #3: Cultural attitudes may need adjusting.
I may be making a BIG assumption here, but do cultural attitudes really mean the LDS faith when it comes to women in the workforce in Utah? (And yes, I consider myself among the active LDS.)
If that be the case, then why isn’t the “culture” embracing the counsel of our leaders when it comes to getting a college education?
President Gordeon B. Hickley Hinckley said in a talk to the youth of the LDS Church in November 2000 that they need to “Be Smart”. Below is a direct quote from the talk he gave 10 years ago:
“You are moving into the most competitive age the world has ever known. All around you is competition. You need all the education you can get. Sacrifice a car; sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of the world.
[The Lord] wants you to train your minds and hands to become an influence for good as you go forward with your lives. And as you do so and as you perform honorably and with excellence, you will bring honor to the Church, for you will be regarded as a man or woman of integrity and ability and conscientious workmanship.
Be smart. The Lord wants you to educate your minds and hands, whatever your chosen field. Whether it be repairing refrigerators, or the work of a skilled surgeon, you must train yourselves. Seek for the best schooling available. Become a workman of integrity in the world that lies ahead of you.”
If you are LDS (and even if you aren't) there is a church website that helps young people who are pursuing higher education. You can check it out at http://besmart.com/.
I do not want to ignore the fact that many women want to stay home with their children. Motherhood is a wonderful and noble profession. It's probably the most important job a woman can ever occupy. A college education can help you become a better mother because it helps you become a stronger person.
A study commissioned by the Utah System of Higher Education (UHSE) found that 99 percent of Utahns sampled believe that higher education is important. Yet, the same study showed that only 39 percent believe that females need a four-year degree or higher.
Why do we have such low of expectations for the young women in Utah when it comes to a college education?
Sad. Very sad.
We live in a country and in an era where women have every opportunity available to them to get a higher education, and so many young ladies just set it aside. There are women in parts of our world today who are maimed or even killed in their pursuit of a basic education…never mind a higher education.
We need women who have strong minds. We need women to become more involved in political and societal issues. We need women who are self-sufficient. We need women who can teach children and each other.
Let’s set a higher standard for our young women. If you are in a position of influence – a parent, a teacher, a coach, a religious leader, a caring neighbor – encourage the young ladies in your life to go to college.
In the words of President Hinckley:
“There can be no doubt, none whatever, that education pays. Do not short-circuit your lives. If you do so, you will pay for it over and over and over again.”