Research finds gender bias within state funding model

ASHLAND, Ore. – Southern Oregon University professors recently finished a three-year study revealing a gender bias within the state’s funding model.

Professor Jacki Sternio is an assistant professor in economics at SOU. She, along with two other professors and one student at the university discovered underlying gender bias within Oregon’s higher education coordinating commission’s funding.

This is under the Student Success and Completion Model, which all public Oregon university’s funding model complies with.

“Ignoring something or failing to incorporate it in, in any kind of equation or algorithm doesn’t mean that the results will be unbiased,” said Dr. Strenio.

While Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission said it doesn’t take gender into analyzing budgeting, the SOU professors soon realized that doesn’t end gender bias within the model.

“We were just looking at some may be some ways gender bias fits into this model. Through no fault at the funding model, but rather through things like social norms and societal discrimination that determine what genders major in what fields,” said Dr. Strenio.

Their research found certain programs such as STEM, health care, and dual-language education are weighed more valuable than programs like humanities and social sciences.

“Within stem it’s interesting, the more highly weighted fields tend to be the more male-dominated as well, like engineering,” said Dr. Strenio

SOU President Linda Schott says previous researchers have analyzed funding models and how it impacts race, but she believes this is a new perspective.

“It’s a reasonable time to really look at the model and see if it’s doing what it should be doing in terms of equity,” said Schott.

SOU has gotten positive feedback from the study. Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission will even look at the findings next week.

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