By Rebecca Blatt
A federal commission plans to subpoena 19 colleges in the area to investigate possible gender discrimination. Women outnumber men nearly 60 percent to 40 percent in higher education nationally.
Anecdotal evidence suggests admissions officers are discriminating -- to help steer their schools toward a more even split. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has decided to look into the rumors to figure out whether schools are favoring male applicants or offering them more generous aid packages. Commissioner Gail Heriot proposed the investigation.
"We haven't established that there is discrimination yet, but that's our main job right now - just establishing whether discrimination is going on," says Heriot.
Federal law prohibits gender discrimination at public schools and at graduate and professional schools. But the commission is including private undergraduate schools in the probe. Heriot says that will give a better sense of what's going on.
"One of the things that we might do is hold a briefing on ways this kind of discrimination can be avoided by those schools that are concerned about having what they few as enough men," she says.
The schools were selected at random within 100 miles of the Commission's Washington meeting place, the extent of its subpoena power.