As the proportion of male students on college campuses across the nation declines, Towson University in Maryland is experimenting with a program that could help it attract more men without running afoul of anti-discrimination laws.
Under the program, now in its second year, the state university makes a special effort to admit students with high SAT scores but low high school grade point averages. Male applicants are more likely than women to fit that category.
The aim was not necessarily to even out the male-to-female ratio of 40 percent to 60 percent among Towson’s 15,000 undergraduates, but to help bright students who are not working up to their potential, said Deborah Leather, an associate provost who oversees the program. But, she added, “the speculation was there was going to be a lot of males in that profile. … We have a national problem right now—males are not going to college at the same rate as in the past.”
In fall 2004, men constituted about 43 percent of the undergraduates at the Baltimore-area university.
Towson’s Academic Special Admissions Program, or ASAP, offers “contingent admissions” to students who have a high school grade point average of 2.6 to 3.2 out of 4.0, which is lower than Towson’s average high school GPA for entering freshman of about 3.4, but whose SAT scores are 1200 (out of 1600) or more for the mathematics and critical- reading sections. Towson’s average SAT score for those two portions of the test was about 1050 for last year’s freshmen.
Because Towson’s program is open to both sexes, the university believes it does not violate any civil rights protections, said G. Lonnie McNew, the university’s senior associate vice president for enrollment. Sixteen of the 75 students admitted to the program this year were women.
ASAP students who have maintained a 2.0 GPA out of 4.0 during their freshman year are granted full admission and treated as other students.
The extra help appears to be making a difference, Mr. McNew said. He said that “students with profiles like these students generally did not do well when we admitted them in the past.” But the program’s retention rate of about 80 percent is on a par with Towson’s overall retention rate of about 85 percent, he said.
A version of this article appeared in the November 08, 2006 edition of Education Week