Unbalanced: The Case for Removing Title IX’s Private College Admissions Exemption

by Katie Lew

Click here for a PDF file of this article

Abstract

Title IX prohibits any federally funded educational program from discriminating on the basis of sex—except when it comes to private undergraduate admissions decisions. This exemption is the result of lobbying during the 1970s by private colleges that resisted being subject to Title IX out of concern that admitting more women would lower their academic standards, hurt future alumni contributions, and deprive them of the ability to choose the ratio of male to female students. However, nearly fifty years later, the exemption is having unforeseen consequences as many private liberal arts colleges are using their exemption to give admissions preference to male applicants in order to ensure their student body has an equal number of male and female students. This practice, known as “gender balancing,” has been adopted by private colleges due to the fact that women apply to college in higher numbers and tend to apply with stronger high school records than their male peers.

This Note analyzes Title IX’s legislative history and argues that removing the private college admissions exemption would further Title IX’s intended purpose of ensuring that women are neither held to higher admissions standards nor subject to quotas that cap their enrollment. This Note then refutes the arguments made by private college admissions officers both when Title IX was passed and today, in hopes of dispelling the concern that removing the exemption will create overwhelmingly female campuses that will no longer attract students who desire a gender balance for social reasons.

Unbalanced: The Case for Removing Title IX’s Private College Admissions Exemption

by Katie Lew

Click here for a PDF file of this article

Abstract

Title IX prohibits any federally funded educational program from discriminating on the basis of sex—except when it comes to private undergraduate admissions decisions. This exemption is the result of lobbying during the 1970s by private colleges that resisted being subject to Title IX out of concern that admitting more women would lower their academic standards, hurt future alumni contributions, and deprive them of the ability to choose the ratio of male to female students. However, nearly fifty years later, the exemption is having unforeseen consequences as many private liberal arts colleges are using their exemption to give admissions preference to male applicants in order to ensure their student body has an equal number of male and female students. This practice, known as “gender balancing,” has been adopted by private colleges due to the fact that women apply to college in higher numbers and tend to apply with stronger high school records than their male peers.

This Note analyzes Title IX’s legislative history and argues that removing the private college admissions exemption would further Title IX’s intended purpose of ensuring that women are neither held to higher admissions standards nor subject to quotas that cap their enrollment. This Note then refutes the arguments made by private college admissions officers both when Title IX was passed and today, in hopes of dispelling the concern that removing the exemption will create overwhelmingly female campuses that will no longer attract students who desire a gender balance for social reasons.