Gender equity? Only 45 four-year colleges show women grads earning more than men

Women who attend 20 institutions make at least $30,000 less than men 10 years after graduating.

More women graduate than men in the United States, but they still don’t earn as much, even after 10 years of employment.

A new study released by higher education rankings company OnlineU shows that only 45 colleges and universities graduate women who pull in more income than men. That’s an improvement from the 36 that made the list six years ago, but still a cringe-worthy low number.

Using data from the College Scorecard, the list is a stark reminder that gender gaps that have persisted for decades haven’t budged enough. In fact, women are still making about 16% less than what men earn according to Census Bureau data, and it may be more than that when variables such as location, job position and experience are factored in. According to Pew Research, women need to work at least 40 more days each year to reach the same pay overall as men. In at least one state, women are earning up to $21,000 less annually.

“Our country still has a long way to go in closing the gap between full-time working men and women,” said Thomas DiNapoli, State Comptroller for the state of New York, which has seen women’s earnings fall slightly over the past seven years. “While New York has done better than most states, more can and should be done. Policies to expand childcare and improve pay transparency should be part of any multifaceted approach to achieve equal pay.”

In the OnlineU list, there are no Ivy League schools or big-name institutions and just three affiliate branches of state universities. Instead, it is comprised mostly of small private colleges and a strong lot of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

“We were surprised to see the dominance of HBCUs on the list—15 of the 45 colleges where women earn more than men are HBCUs,” says Taylor Nichols, study author. “This trend may be in part due to increased gender disparity at HBCUs and worse graduation rates for men. We think it’s important to recognize the colleges where women earn more than men to learn from which institutions and degrees are best supporting progress toward wage equity, and to see what we can learn from these trends.”

The leader among those institutions is Wheaton College in Massachusetts, a co-ed liberal arts school that started 188 years ago as a female seminary and didn’t see its first male student on campus until 1988. Wheaton’s women in 2021 earned $63,079, while its men netted $54,212 for a net difference of $8,867. Only women at Hamilton College in New York and Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania had higher earnings than Wheaton among the 45, pulling in more than $70,000 after 10 years.

Most of the institutions on the list, like Wheaton, are located in the Northeast, a bastion for small liberal arts schools, including four of the top five. Wells College in New York ($7,463 difference), American International College in Massachusetts ($6,299) and Mitchell College in Connecticut ($5,980) are in there, as is outlier New College of Florida ($6,464).

Perhaps most noteworthy is that of the 45 institutions where women have the edge, there is less than a $1,000 difference at 16 of them. For example, at Alaska Pacific University and at Paine College in Georgia, the gaps are only $191 and $155, respectively. Those numbers and the Wheaton gap of $8,800 show just how far women trail the men, especially on the highest scales of pay and jobs in the U.S. DiNapoli notes in his own study that in some jobs, the difference is staggering: In legal occupations, women in New York are making around, $97,000 while the men are earning $175,000. Delineating by state, women on average earn more than $10,000 less than men.

OnlineU has another list that shows the extreme disparities at other colleges and universities. Nichols notes that men outearn women by more than $30,000 at 21 institutions (which doesn’t even include the unemployed). Three of Brigham Young University’s institutions are in the top 13 because the propensity for women of Mormon faith to not work full-time is a preference for single-income families. Three other state universities in Utah also are on the list. But there are other institutions where that is not the case. At Princeton, the gap is more than $41,000. At Stanford, it is more than $38,000. And two others that cracked the dubious Top 20 at just over $30,000 are Harvard University and Carnegie-Mellon University. Three more have a $50,000-plus disparity, including Union Institute and University in Ohio, the Medical University of South Carolina and Babson College in Massachusetts

According to a Gallup poll, only 35% who work in higher education feel they are being fairly compensated by their institutions. Nearly 30% of women feel like their employers did not promote them because of their gender, which is twice the rate for other industries.

On the OnlineU list, these are the other institutions outside the Top 5 where women outpace the men after 10 years:

  • The New School (New York): Earnings: $55,508. Pay gap: $5,772
  • Johnson C. Smith University (North Carolina): Earnings: $$38,933. Pay gap: $5,032
  • Marymount Manhattan College (New York): Earnings: $49,406. Pay gap: $3,833
  • Gallaudet University (Washington DC): Earnings: $35,425. Pay gap: $3,655
  • MacMurray College (Illinois): Earnings: $39,441. Pay gap: $3,214
  • Cumberland University (Tennessee): Earnings: $47,080. Pay gap: $2,996
  • Edward Waters College (Florida): Earnings: $33,001. Pay gap: $2,934
  • Langston University (Oklahoma): Earnings: $33,757. Pay gap: $2,923
  • Hamilton College (New York): Earnings: $74,668. Pay gap: $2,882
  • Massachusetts College of Art and Design: Earnings $45,283. Pay gap: $2,608
  • Clark Atlanta University (Georgia): Earnings: $40,081. Pay gap: $2,526
  • Sarah Lawrence College (New York): Earnings: $50,986. Pay gap: $2,062
  • College of Mount Saint Vincent (New York): Earnings: $55,883. Pay gap: $1,986
  • Hampshire College (Massaschusetts): $41,862. Pay gap: $1,672
  • Oakwood University (Alabama): Earnings: $38,244. Pay gap: $1,424
  • University of Bridgeport (Connecticut): Earnings: $50,418. Pay gap: $1,401
  • Morgan State University (Maryland): Earnings: $43,389. Pay gap: $1,340
  • Shenandoah University (Virginia): Earnings: $51,032. Pay gap: $1,277
  • Lewis & Clark College (Oregon): Earnings: $52,152. Pay gap: $1,197
  • University of Maine at Augusta: Earnings: $34,717. Pay gap: $1,176
  • Lincoln University (Pennsylvania): Earnings: $38,873. Pay gap: $1,157
  • Holy Names University (California): Earnings: $60,612. Pay gap: $1,079
  • Southwestern Adventist University (Texas): Earnings: $47,255. Pay gap: $1,010
  • Winston-Salem State University (NC): Earnings: $38,835. Pay gap: $1,006
  • Talladega College (Alabama): Earnings: $28,411. Pay gap: $989
  • Coppin State University (Maryland): Earnings: $41,800. Pay gap: $895
  • Washington Adventist University (Maryland): Earnings: $55,057. Pay gap: $847
  • Bowie State University (Maryland): Earnings: $49,667. Pay gap: $831
  • State University of New York at New Paltz: Earnings: $52,378. Pay gap: $555
  • Swarthmore College (Pennsylvania): Earnings: $72,722. Pay gap: $399
  • Emerson College (Massachusetts): Earnings: $57,033. Pay gap: $397
  • University of Hawaii – West Oahu: Earnings: $48,155. Pay gap: $395
  • Florida A&M: Earnings: $42,728. Pay gap: $378
  • Saint Augustine’s University (NC): Earnings: $33,780. Pay gap: $332
  • Bethune-Cookman University (Florida): Earnings: $36,471. Pay gap: $313
  • The College of Wooster (Ohio): Earnings: $51,596. Pay gap: $292
  • University of St. Thomas (Texas): Earnings: $53,105. Pay gap: $247
  • Reed College (Oregon): Earnings: $51,144. Pay gap: $208
  • Alaska Pacific University: Earnings: $47,398. Pay gap: $191
  • Paine College (Georgia): $31,216. Pay gap: $155
Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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