Sunday, October 17, 2010

Women & College

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 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

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.”


Meili said...

Oh man. This is sad. I went to school with many of these women who were only in college until they found a man. Seriously.

It has always been my goal to be able to stay home with my kids when I had them. My mom was able to do that for me, and I wanted to do the same if I was able. But thankfully, my mom also taught me the importance of a college education. She completed her degree when I was an infant, and never had to work until a few years ago when a family crisis made it necessary. Thank goodness she already had her degree and could jump right into teaching elementary school! And you are so right that a college education is so much more than a piece of paper.

Get with the program girls!

Alice Wills Gold said...

I totally agree that women should be educated and not just plan on their husband's to bring home the bacon, but when I was 25 and had a baby, I made a very difficult decision. It was called "have a baby" because the Lord told me to. And then he told me that I should stay home with the baby.

It was EXTREMELY hard on me. I didn't want to do either of these things. I wanted to finish college. But, I never had the luxury of just going to college. I always had to work full time and go to college when I could. After having my first baby, I worked my butt off to just get my Associate's Degree whenever I had free time. I didn't have family to help me with the baby and I could not afford to put her in daycare as my husband was also a college student and working full-time.

I wish I would have had the life luxury of NOT getting married until I was 27. I also wish that my parents would have supported me more in attending college, but they shipped me off to Utah instead of letting me attend an affordable junior college in CA. I am soooo glad they did this because if they hadn't, I am sure I would have never gained a testimony. I also don't regret my mission that took a year to save for and a year and a half from my college.

If my husband were to die today, I would go back to my secretarial work and again start sneaking in a college class here and there, between being here for my kids. Or I would just use his life insurance to attend full-time during the day and crank it out.

I have a plan and a back up plan for that plan even though I never finished college and I bet a lot of the other women in Utah do too.

I just think sometimes women on the OTHER side of the feminist spectrum should be sensitive to those of us who decide to forgo our education and stay home with our kids because that was OUR revelation. This does not to take away from YOUR revelation for your family; it's just different for everyone.

I think people should be very careful when they point fingers downward, as they really have no idea how many of these women who are NOT in college would really love to be there.

I used to dream of opening a "service based" daycare, where college aged women who had children could leave their children as they attended classes and serve and watch their own children plus others on days they weren't in class.

Instead of telling everyone to forgo having children or to stay in the workforce, I think it would be awesome if some of these bright minds would think about ways to help women get educated within the realm of their societal boundaries. And, Yes, I do believe that the Lord gives many women the same answer he gives me, which is to NOT forgo having children.

Alice Wills Gold said...

I hate it when I reread my posted comment and find grammatical errors. That first sentence should read husbands not husband's. I get really excited about my apostrophes.

Diana W. Windley said...

Thanks for your comments ladies. I's different for every person and every family.

That being said, we do need a better daycare system in this country so women (and men) who want to continue their education and/or pursue a career can have an affordable, safe place for their children. Quality daycare is so expensive. At one point we were paying as much for our daycare as we were our mortgage.

Too many women, especially single moms, find themselves with the choice of low-quality daycare for their children or going on welfare. Tax payers end of paying for either option one way or the other. If a woman get can an education and have quality, affordable childcare, she can lift herself out of a low-income situation.

I believe that our society needs more family-friendly work environments with flexible schedules not just for moms and dads, but also working adults who are caring for elderly parents.

If strong families truly are the basis of a strong society, then we need society to help provide the resources that working people need to care for their families.

Socialism is not the answer. Government is not the answer. I believe the answer needs to come from the private sector in some form of a not-for-profit organization that has some government oversight simply to protect the children.

I work for a credit union, so I think of the credit union motto of "not-for-profit, not-for-charity, but-for service" motto.

I think Alice is headed in the right direction with a service-based daycare.

Anonymous said...

A great post i come through across recent time.Really i think young girls should think to have a long term career after having a such a good education.

Jake E. Pooh said...

Diana, I read that report and there really isn't much to it. All that 49% number actually means is that men in Utah are more likely than the national average to attend college. Or is it somehow a good sign when 60% of college enrollment is female? Don't we really want the number to be as close to even as possible?

Much ado about not much.

Post a Comment