May 17, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Male matriculation rates at US colleges and universities have long lagged behind those of their female counterparts. However, men are finally starting to catch up to women, according to a recent report from Bloomberg based on new data from the Labor Department. What’s motivating this new trend? Here’s a closer look.

A Steady Rise

Approximately 1.5 million men graduated from high school in the US in 2016. Of these, 67 percent -- slightly more than one million -- went on to enroll in two-year and four-year colleges and universities the following fall.

According to Bloomberg, “That's up more than six percentage points from 2012, surpassing recession-era levels when the weak economy pushed students to stay in school and wait out the downturn. It's also the highest share on record in Labor Department data going back to 1993 and in an alternative series from the National Center for Education Statistics going back to 1960.” Not only that, but it’s also the “ the longest sustained period of gains since at least 1960,” says Bloomberg.

And while women still outpace men with a matriculation rate of 72 percent, the gap is narrowing.

Beyond the High School Diploma

Education experts suggest that increased male college enrollment rates indicate that the country’s men are catching onto the fact that today’s employers are looking for candidates with more than high school diplomas.

In fact, according to a report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, “Over 95 percent of jobs created during the (post-recession) recovery have gone to workers with at least some college education, while those with a high school diploma or less are being left behind.” Researchers say this can be attributed to an increase in entry-level “high-skill managerial and professional jobs.”

The overall takeaway is a promising one for men and the workforce. Concludes Bloomberg, “More education promises to make males more attractive in a job market that is increasingly requiring more skill.”

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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