Once again Susan Madsen, founder of the Utah Women and Education Initiative, sounds the alarm over the number of Utah women in college ("LDS missions cut Utah college enrollment, especially for women," Tribune, March 27).
In the past, she has argued persuasively that too many women, relative to men, start college in Utah but do not graduate. This time, she is complaining about declining enrollment numbers for women, but her argument is less convincing. Yes, enrollment is down for women by 4.2 percent since the LDS Church’s new age requirements for women. But they are down 3.8 percent for men as well.
It seems that young men and women alike are opting for earlier missions. Until the initial missionaries who took advantage of these changes return home, we won’t know for sure about the eventual effect of the the age change on college experience.
Having seen this process up close in my local stake, I can offer the following timeline: The age change was announced in October 2012. A surge of younger missionaries leaving for their missions took place in the first quarter of 2013. That means the women from that surge will be returning in the fourth quarter of 2014 and the men in the first quarter of 2015.
Then we will see who enrolls in college and who does not. Until then, it’s a little early to sound the alarm.
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