Men outnumber women at Notre Dame for the past 20 years, University denies gender quota
Maggie Eastland | Friday, March 24, 2023
For the last two decades, Notre Dame has enrolled 10.6% more men than women, on average. Reflecting that disparity, the University has admitted an average of 7.7% more men. Residential life housing ratios match that difference.
The University has enrolled an average of 52.5% men and 47.5% women since 2002, according to Common Data Set (CDS) reports. At the same time, Notre Dame admitted an average of 51.9% men and 48.1% women. The admission rate for women applying to Notre Dame has been 1.3 percentage points lower on average over the last 20 years, meaning when women apply, they are less likely to be admitted than men. Average retention rates show that women are slightly less likely to accept an offer than men.
Last cycle, the admissions rate for men was 16.1% while it hovered at 14.1% for women. Similarly, the class of 2026 is composed of 51.2% men and 48.8% women.
In four different cycles — 2008-9, 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15, 2016-17 and 2021-22 — more women applied to Notre Dame than men. Yet in each of those years, the University admitted and enrolled more men than women. In each case, the pool of applicants exhibited a slight female majority but the first-year class exhibited a slight male majority. Mirroring the nationwide trend, more women applied than men, but more men were admitted.
Male students consistently outnumber female students
Every class of students for the past 20 years has stagnated near these 52.5-47.5% values. Women have never outnumbered men in the history of Notre Dame enrollment or admissions. Except for 2003, women were admitted at a lower rate than men every year for the past two decades.
Micki Kidder, vice president for undergraduate enrollment, denied a quota for male or female students and underscored the importance of a holistic review of each applicant.
“If you dig in annually, you’ll see fluctuations in every single one of those years,” she said.
According to The Observer’s data analysis, the difference in average between men and women admitted at Notre Dame is statistically significant with 99.99999999999999% confidence, meaning that the 7.7% more men admitted on average over the past two decades is not a matter of fluctuation.
The results of the analysis mean that the difference between men and women admitted is statistically extremely unlikely to occur due to random chance.
Kidder’s predecessor, Don Bishop, took a different stance in an interview with The Observer last spring.
“We don’t have preference by race. What we do have to have is a certain gender balance because of the housing, so we’re supposed to be 47.5% female and 52.5% male,” Bishop said. “That’s the only number that we have to hit a very-specific based on something defined in your application: whether you’re male or female.”
When asked about the difference in admission rate between male and female students, Kidder said she was “very familiar” with the data.
“I’m just going to keep going back to the importance of this holistic review, and that is a very genuine answer,” Kidder said. “It’s what makes the science and the art of this industry so important.”
The ratio that emerges from the CDS — 52.5% men and 47.5% women — is matched within dorm housing, not including the new men‘s dorm under construction. According to estimates from the Residential Life website, 52.3% of on-campus beds are earmarked for men while only 47.7% are designated for women.
University expands housing, builds men’s dorm
Compounding this effect, the University announced the construction of a new men’s residence hall in June 2022. Now staggering just outside the perimeter of Johnson Family Hall, construction is underway for the new dorm.
For some students who watch the still-unnamed dorm grow taller each day, the gender designation is disheartening. Marliece Barrios, a senior and RA in Walsh Hall, said she is glad the University is paving the way to house more students, but the news arrives with a tinge of disappointment.
“I think it’s a good thing that Notre Dame is expanding,” Barrios said. “I think it’s really important that anyone who transfers has a home, but it kind of sucks that it’s a men’s dorm.”
Barrios also mentioned the buzz surrounding the 50th anniversary of women at Notre Dame and a perceived contradiction between the University’s words and actions.
“There was so much messaging about it,” she said. “Why aren’t you backing that up?”
Barrios posed the same question many Notre Dame women find themselves asking: “If you have space for a new residential hall, why isn’t it for women?”
Associate vice president for residential life Heather Rakoczy Russell’s answer to that question is algorithms and historical overcrowding in men’s halls.
“What I would want our women to hear as they walk past that new men‘s hall is that we‘re trying to learn from our past mistakes and not repeat it and have enough space for everybody, not just heads and beds, but a welcoming and inclusive and integrated community,” Russell said. “And based on all of that, the numbers tell us that this next hall should be a men‘s hall.”
She also said that residential hall space availability does not affect admission.
“We’re able to … do projections based on what we know from the past and what we’re projecting in the future,” Russell said. “But the number of beds available doesn’t drive the admissions process. It’s the other way around … the right people are admitted, and then we determine what we need as a result of that.”
When asked if the current men’s residence hall under construction reflects a projected need for more men’s residential space, Dan Rohmiller, director of residential life housing operations, said, “I suppose it could potentially, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true,” adding that other factors, such as study abroad fluctuations, the number of seniors moving off-campus and the University’s long term residential life plan affect the model.
“The amount of men already enrolled, as you‘ve noted, is different than the amount of women, and so meeting that demand I think, is what we‘re trying to do,” Rohmiller said.
While Residential Life held that their projections have no bearing on admissions, Kidder said that admissions works with a variety of partners across campus, including Saint Mary’s College and Notre Dame’s on-campus residence halls.
“There’s not a quota as it relates to the Notre Dame student body. And that‘s really important to me that we know that and are cognizant of that, but we do consider a variety of different components,” Kidder said. “Certainly, Saint Mary‘s, and the wonderful women in that tri-campus community, certainly our residence halls here on this campus. So, we consider a number of things. We consider a number of students studying abroad at any point in time. So there‘s a whole number of variables that we are going to be cognizant of as we are shaping a class that is first and foremost led by the strengths and talents of each individual applicant.”
Russell also said the new men’s residence hall is a solution to historical overcrowding in men’s halls and marks one of the final initiatives of the University’s 10-year residential master plan that ends in 2024.
She and Kidder emphasized the gender balance on East Quad.
“This new men’s residence hall will cap off that East Quad, so it’ll be two men and two women’s halls, so a balance of gender on the new East Quad,” Russell said.
Baumer Hall, a men’s residence on West Quad, was also part of the residential master plan that is now tapering to a close.
Progress over 50 years
Though the two most recent decades have maintained classes composed of about 5% more men than women, Kidder pointed out that the University has enrolled increasing numbers of women when measuring from the start of coeducation.
“By decade you can see a continual growth in the percentage of women, quite dramatically, obviously, as we just celebrated the 50th year of coeducation here, and we’ll continue to celebrate a very equitable environment on our campus,” she said.
David Bailey, vice president for strategic planning and institutional research, said the proportion of men and women continue to approach each other.
“The proportions of men and women have been converging since 1989, a little more leveling off in 1995, but continuing to approach equal proportions through this year,” Bailey wrote in an email.
Bailey also added that he observed lower admissions rates for women.
“Since 2014, women’s admissions rates have been ~1-2% lower than those of men,” he wrote, attributing his statement to data published nationally in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).
When asked whether Notre Dame admissions plans on admitting or enrolling an equal number of men and women in the future, Kidder said the University has a master plan that “will definitely be moving closer toward that 50-50 goal.” She noted that every decade has been “more equitable” than the last.
“We’re so close,” she said.
What about the year you applied? A footnote on accessing the data
If you want to see the stats broken down by gender for any year from 2002 to 2022, The Observer dataset for this story includes that information.
Editor’s note: The writers conflated percentage points with percent differences, leading to some underestimated figures in the original article. The Observer regrets these errors.
Alysa Guffey, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, Ryan Peters, Managing Editor and Paul E. Cassidy, Data Visualization Consultant contributed to this report.