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SHOULD TAX DOLLARS BE USED TO FUND SINGLE-SEX COLLEGES?

SHARE SHOULD TAX DOLLARS BE USED TO FUND SINGLE-SEX COLLEGES?

INTRODUCTION: Texas Women's University has voted to open all of its programs to men. The university board's action came after Steven Serling threatened to sue because he was initially denied admission to the University's biology program. Should state-sponsored colleges be allowed to discriminate on the basis of gender?

BONNIE ERBE: Call me an ideological purist, but it seems wrong to use public money - supplied by taxpayers of the male and female persuasion - to fund programs that deny access to those of one gender or the other. If taxes are taken out of the paychecks of male workers in Texas, and they want to attend state-supported institutions funded by their tax dollars, it defies logic to claim they should be denied that opportunity.Oh, some women (and men) will caterwaul that single-sex education has proven extremely beneficiary, especially to young women. I do not doubt its efficacy or beneficial impact on some students.

But given this demand for single-sex institutions, surely the private sector can support enough of them to satisfy the requirements of the populace.

Some may support gender segregation at Texas Women's University. But they probably won't be similarly supportive when they graduate and are denied positions as lawyers, doctors, airline mechanics or biologists because they are women.

BETSY HART: I must be having more of an impact on my colleague than I realized. Suddenly she sounds like a raving advocate of the free market and privatizing government functions!

She is right. Massive government subsidy of higher education has served only to inflate prices and allow thoroughly uncompetitive institutions to remain in business.

But government funding of colleges and universities is apparently here to stay, even with Newt Gingrich as speaker of the House. Given that reality, Americans should not be denied freedom of school choice just because government has over-expanded its role in this area.

As noted before in this column, single-sex education is not for everyone. I would have expired before attending an all-woman college! But it is a good choice for many.

My colleague's protestations notwithstanding, women from all-women's colleges are well-represented in the professional and political world. Someone my colleague admires - Hillary Clinton - is just such an example. Oops. I may have just undermined my case . . . .

Nevertheless, it is liberal women who constantly complain that women and girls get short shrift in coed schools. They are not called upon in class; they are not taken seriously; they are not encouraged to pursue the sciences (or so the story goes).

OK, then. In all-women's colleges, they can excel without fear of being upstaged by the boys. Instead of being secretary of the school newspaper, a woman is editor.

But the bottom line is freedom of education choice for men and women. One man should not be able to deny that choice to thousands of women, or one woman (in the case of Shannon Faulkner) to thousands of men. Those feminists who really believe in the right to choose will agree.