Where the Women Are Not: Alone in Higher Education.

For most of my educational life, I didn’t give much thought to how my experience might differ from that of the males in my class. In high school, my honors and AP classes all had a lot of girls. Outside of that group, it sometimes felt like boys were intimidated by smart girls. That was their problem and not mine.

There are more women going to college and graduating from college every year at all levels from undergraduate to doctoral programs. Women are certainly taking every opportunity to become better educated and more successful. Yet, that was not my experience. I imagine that the world I face was more similar to the university life around 1900 than the typical female university experience in the year 2000. I was definitely in the minority, and everyone was not happy to have me in the classroom.

Physical science majors (physics, chemistry, geology, and astronomy) are about 25% female. None of those women were in my physics classes. I literally never saw another girl in an upper-level physics class. In the year that I graduated, my class was three boys and me. I was the 25%. Yet, no other girls had graduated from the geophysics program before me, and none graduated after me. So, the 25% can be deceiving. In fact, I was alone. My experience was that scientists are pretty open-minded. Everyone thought it was cool that I liked what they liked, and nobody ever made it seem like I shouldn’t be there. Sure, it got a little weird when all the physics Ph.D. students thought I should be their girlfriend because I liked physics and was nice to them. Other than that, I never had a problem.

I didn’t run into many women in my classes or as my professors, but that didn’t bother me. I was friends with the guys in my major, and the lack of women never made me feel like I didn’t belong there. I had one female professor in my major classes. She didn’t champion me with a “girl power” talk or really encourage me in any way. She was just there doing her own thing, and I’m not even sure that she liked me all that much. So, there was no female mentoring. I came to depend on getting support and advice from men, including a great advisor.

In the end, I switched fields and switched careers in graduate school. It had to do with the career path I was on and my realization my senior year that I would not emotionally survive a doctoral program in geophysics. I ended up in a doctoral finance program. Women in 2014 made up 42.3% of business doctoral graduates. Those women, however, are mostly in fields such as management and marketing. They are not in finance. Women were 27.7% of the doctoral degrees awarded in finance in 2014. Once again, I find myself in the 25%. I was the only female admitted in the year I started, but since people hang around for several years, I did get to know other women getting doctoral finance degrees. The university usually graduated one woman per year with a finance Ph.D., which meant there were about 4 of us there at any point in time. Half of them were Chinese students. If you want to be a minority in your field, be a white woman in finance. Even worse? Be a black woman in finance. They are almost non-existent.

Business Doctorate Recipients, 2014

I didn’t have a single female professor in graduate school. Maybe that was part of the reason some of the male professors were less than welcoming of women in their classes. This was the first time in my life when I ever experienced harassment and a clear message that the male professors didn’t want me there. There were two in particular who targeted me for their attacks. Luckily, I had a great advisor and enough of an attitude to be unbothered even then. I survived and thrived, which I am sure bothers them to this day. I didn’t have a female role model or mentor in my career because they just didn’t exist. Instead, my mentors and colleagues have been men who respect me and look out for me. Sure, there are times when it would have been helpful to have another woman in my corner. Finding people who you trust, however, should always come before anything else.

 

 

 

free college tuition education

Why This Professor Does Not Support Free Higher Education

free college tuition education

 

I had planned to post something about back to school savings, but you are going to have to wait until next week for that post. Last night and this morning I got engaged in conversations about the Democratic National Party’s plan to offer free tuition for community college and state universities. Bernie Sanders brought this up during his campaign and said that Wall Street will pay for free college. I guess in some ways it comes across like Trump’s plan to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it. I don’t want to get political here because that’s not the point of my blog. I want to share finance, education, and career tips with you. As a professor at a state university, however, I feel like I need to say something about why I think this plan is a terrible idea.

 

  • The problem with the cost of higher education is the high cost of administration. People assume professors are cashing in on the big bucks and getting all kinds of benefits. Not true. Universities have bloated administrations with an office and staff for everything under the sun while the actual educators get nothing. They don’t get raises and they watch as travel and research funding fades away more each year due to budget cuts. My university creates new administrative offices and hires a whole staff to manage them. Meanwhile, we have three administrative assistants trying to manage all the needs of the entire College of Business. It’s crazy. I can only imagine the administration that would go into this free higher ed plan. Should this ever pass, I am out.
  • You have a choice about where you want to go to college. Weigh the costs with the expected income in your chosen field. Don’t go to a college that costs $60,000 a year and major in art or communication. Someone should point out that is stupid. If you still do it, you forfeit the right to complain. Four times I had to choose the college I could afford, and my parents pushed me towards choosing a major that would help me to secure a good job.
  • Being in debt from student loans is nothing new. I accumulated around $100,000 in student loans on the way to my Ph.D. Medical school students rack up that much debt too. So, it makes me mad when people are crying about their student loans. You signed the note yourself. The problem is the poor cost/benefit analysis (mentioned above) PLUS the abysmal job market caused by the increased cost of hiring and a puny economy. That story does not play well with younger voters. It’s easier to say, “Boo hoo, let’s make those evil bankers pay for my college.” Who do you think paid for their college education? They are probably paying off student loans too.
  • This plan will discourage choice and encourage class segregation in the same way lower income families are forced to send elementary school and high school students to public school while higher income families can afford better private school options. This goes against one of the major political issues in America today – class warfare and the disintegration of the middle class.
  • It is a truth of economic theory that something only has worth when you must give something of value to attain it. If your parents gave you a car when you first got your license and paid for all of the associated expenses, you did not care for the car the same way another teen did who worked to pay for the car. The same thing is true for education. College students who are not paying for college tend to lack a sense of ownership about their education. Students who have skin in the game and are helping to pay their way through college have a much better understanding of the value of that education. They work harder and get more out of the experience because it means more to them. I don’t want to be a part of a university filled with students attending for free.

 

Did you have to pay for college? Did your parents push you to a certain school or degree? 

College Prep: Preparing Your Children for Their Financial Future

preparing students for college finances

 

 

Dear Dad and Moms,

 

College students really do not know what they are doing when it comes to their money. They worry about student loans and debt but don’t have a clue about what they might earn when they graduate, credit reports, or how to manage their money during the semester (let alone after college graduation). Some of them are going to take a college finance class and learn something, but others will not. It’s so easy to dig yourself into a financial pit these days, and it is very hard to get out of that place when the job market is brutally tight.

 

I’m not sure why parents as a whole are failing at this point, but I do have some ideas. Maybe parents just have not thought about the need to pass on personal finance skills. I think this is entirely possible because I can tell you that if anyone sat down and talked to me about managing my money or anything related to personal finance that I don’t remember. In college, I had money I earned during the summer and saved, but I never thought about a budget. I never sat down and calculated my income and expected expenses after graduation. Life skills that were important: making mac and cheese, doing laundry, putting transmission fluid in my car so it would run. Life skills that were not important: budgeting. So, maybe you aren’t thinking about it because you had a similar experience where you figured out the whole money thing as you went. College students are no different today. Studies show that they don’t know just how much they don’t know.

 

Unless you are living under a rock, you probably know that today personal finance is more important than ever. High school and college graduates are heading out into a tough economy where they will be burdened with high health care costs, taxes, and debt. While employees could once depend upon the government and an employee pension to cover retirement expenses, individuals are now expected to adequately save and invest themselves. Many states have begun to require high school courses in personal finance, but parents should not rely on these classes to fully prepare their children for the financial freedoms of college.

 

Maybe we are just uncomfortable talking about money since it can be such a stressful topic in our own lives. Perhaps some parents don’t feel like they understand personal finance enough themselves to be able to give advice to their children. Students going off to college, however, really need basic skills that they are going to use every day. They don’t need to know how to pick investments and the different type of retirement accounts. Start out by making sure they can do simple things like write a check and make a budget for the semester. Empowering your children to take responsibility for their own financial future sets the stage for good choices beyond graduation as well.