The Missing Students

Providing a high-quality college education at an affordable price point is a key point of pride for Dalton State College. It’s one of the main reasons I love Dalton State and am honored to serve our students. But I am becoming increasingly concerned about our missing students.

To improve the education we deliver, we gather, report and study information about our students as well as compare similar data from other colleges and universities. Something that has concerned me for quite a few years now is what has been referred to as “the missing men” on college campuses. 

In the latter part of the 1970s, males and females enrolled in college in nearly equal proportions. Today, approximately 57% of the students enrolled in college within the United States are female and an even greater share earn college degrees compared to their male colleagues. At Dalton State, nearly 62% of our students enrolled last fall (2021) were female. 

Unfortunately, recent data suggest the disparity has continued to worsen since the beginning of the pandemic. College enrollments overall decreased nationally during the pandemic. However, the pandemic disproportionately impacted enrollment patterns of certain student demographics.

The sharpest decline in enrollment since the pandemic was for students of color enrolled in community or technical colleges — colleges with missions very similar to Dalton State. Male student enrollment decreased more in every racial and ethnic group compared to females. The gender gap was greatest for Black males and Hispanic males enrolling in 2-year public colleges. Enrollment for these student demographics decreased by 19% and 17%, respectively, during the pandemic compared to a 10% decrease in female enrollment of the same races/ethnicities. 

Why should we care about these missing students? Among the reasons is the concern about producing enough future employees to fill the increasing numbers of jobs that require at least some college.

We need all races/ethnicities and genders of young people to be prepared for our workforce. If northwest Georgia’s economy is going to thrive, we cannot afford to lose any of these students along the pipeline.

Dalton State is a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) with approximately 35% of our students identifying as Hispanic/Latinx. But we are committed to serving ALL our students regardless of race/ethnicity, gender/sexual preference, religion and so forth. Nationally, Hispanic students are statistically less likely than students of other ethnicities to enroll in college and graduate from college. Recognizing the significant proportion of these students in our community, we are especially committed to serving them. Our Hispanic students at Dalton State consistently outperform, on average, our other students.

This is the very reason Dalton State exists and we are committed to learning more about how we can better serve our students, including our underrepresented students and students least likely to graduate.

In recent years, we have implemented a variety of services and activities to help increase the enrollment, retention and graduation of our students. These activities include things such as incorporating more hands-on learning in every academic program, implementing other classroom teaching techniques identified by multiple research studies to increase student success, and offering financial literacy opportunities for our students to help improve budgeting and management of the financial responsibilities of college.

We always have room for improvement, but others are beginning to take notice of our successes. Most recently, we were ranked by (based on public data reported by all colleges/universities) as number 10 for Best Public Colleges in Georgia, number 10 for Best Small Colleges in Georgia (including both public and private colleges) and #19 for Best Colleges & Universities in Georgia (public and private).

We will continue to look for better ways to serve our students and increase their likelihood of success, no matter how highly we are ranked. Educating a diverse student body strengthens and perpetuates the mutually beneficial relationship we enjoy with our community.