Title IX: 37 Years Ago Today

Less than 40 years ago, it wasn't illegal for schools and postsecondary institutions to discriminate against women and girls.

  • Many schools and universities had separate entrances for male and female students.
  • Female students were not allowed to take certain courses, such as auto mechanics or criminal justice; male students could not take home economics.
  • Most medical and law schools limited the number of women admitted to 15 or fewer per school.
  • Many colleges and universities required women to have higher test scores and better grades than male applicants to gain admission.
  • Women living on campus were not allowed to stay out past midnight.
  • Women faculty members were excluded from faculty clubs and encouraged to join faculty wives' clubs instead.
  • Women's athletic scholarships often did not exist - even for the most outstanding female athletes.

All that changed with the passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 on June 23, 1972. It was signed by President Richard M. Nixon on July 1, 1972. This civil rights law prohibits discrimination in education programs and activities receiving federal funds and is the first comprehensive federal law to prohibit sex discrimination against students and employees in these institutions.

Title IX provides that: "[N]o person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."

Title IX regulated the following aspects of the educational experience:

  • Recruitment
  • Admissions
  • Financial aid/scholarships
  • Facilities and housing
  • Course offerings and access
  • Educational programs and activities
  • Counseling
  • Health insurance benefits and services
  • Marital and parental status
  • Athletics
  • Employment assistance

According to the Women's Educational Equity Act Equity Resource Center, in 1972, when Title IX was enacted, 44 percent of all bachelor's degrees were earned by women, as compared to 57 percent in 2000. During the same period, the percentage of women earning medical degrees increased from 9 to 43 percent. Title IX has also had a marked impact on the athletics programs offered by educational institutions across the country. The number of women's and girls' athletic teams at both the high school and college levels has dramatically increased. From 1981 to 1999, the total number of college women's teams increased by 66 percent.

Although Title IX has been extremely successful in equalizing opportunities for women and girls, it is still possible for institutions to practice discrimination as long as they do not receive federal financial asistance, and there a small handful of institutions that have declined to participate in the federal programs.


Publication Date: 6/23/2009

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