Research shows more Utah women need to complete college

Posted Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - 9:49pm

The Utah Women and Education Initiative (UWEI) released two Research and Policy Briefs, which contain the latest available data and information on educational attainment, college enrollment and graduation.

The information contained in both briefs underscores the need for continued focus on degree completion for both men and women in the State of Utah. The briefs were compiled in support of the state’s goal that 66 percent of Utah’s adults hold a postsecondary degree or vocational certificate by the year 2020.

The first brief, titled Educational Attainment: A Utah Women and Education Update, highlights data on the highest level of education attained by adults in Utah. The data show that Utah has a high percentage of adults who have some postsecondary education, but have not finished a degree or certification program. 

Women make up a major portion of those without degrees, particularly at the bachelor’s level and higher. According to Dr. Susan Madsen, senior advisor to the UWEI and a management professor at Utah Valley University, “It is noteworthy that a recent study showed that of 51 metropolitan areas with at least one million people, the greatest differences between the sexes were found in the Salt Lake City-Ogden-Clearfield area.” 

Study data showed that men surpassed women in the attainment of bachelor’s degrees or higher by 9.3 percentage points, with 37.5 percent of men and 28.3 percent of women ages 25 and older holding these degrees. This is of concern because research shows that an individual’s earning power is directly related to the degree he or she holds.

 The second brief, College Enrollment and Graduation: A Utah Women and Education Update, highlights current enrollment and graduation data for women and men attending postsecondary institutions in Utah. The data show that 58.5 percent of Utah high school students go directly to college, compared to a U.S. average of 63.3 percent.

The recent change in LDS mission age requirements will likely impact these statistics. The brief also features data on graduation rates at public four-year institutions. The Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) reports a 13 percent difference between the USHE institutions’ graduation rates for women and the national average. “Women clearly face unique challenges in balancing families, jobs and education, and this is what we are working to address,” said Mary Ann Holladay, director of the UWEI.

More information about the Utah Women and Education Initiative can be found at, including additional research briefs, videos and resources for educators, families, and community organizations.

UWEI receives oversight from five organizing partners: the Utah Governor’s Office, the Utah System of Higher Education, the Utah State Office of Education, Prosperity 2020, and the United Way of Salt Lake.


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