It's no secret there are a lot of women at the College of Charleston. The real surprise, however, is just how many there really are.

According to school officials, this year's freshman class is two-thirds female, a figure that might be appealing to the male students, but problematic for the institution as a whole.

As enrollment numbers skew more and more toward female students, the College and other traditional liberal arts colleges are beginning to ramp up recruitment of male students.

"The national average is close to the 60-40 range," said Jimmie Foster Jr., director of freshman admissions at the College of Charleston. "This has been a growing trend at many colleges and universities all over the country."

"But there is a point, if it gets up to about 75 percent women, people start considering you an all-girls school," Foster said.

Retention, distraction

Some of the demographic differences surrounding the high female population are obvious.

"Some institutions are more attractive to men based on the social and academic offerings they have," Foster said. "But there's also something going on in our culture."

He points out that women have higher SAT scores, and more of them are valedictorians and salutatorians.

The 2010 freshman class at the College of Charleston, for instance, is made up of 1,330 females (66.2 percent) and only 680 males (33.8 percent).

"And let's be honest," Foster said. "The numbers show females also retain better. Academically, they stay in school. Maybe the guys get a little distracted."

Foster added that the overall enrollment numbers would be even more uneven if it weren't for the 1,000 students who transfer into the school each year.

"Our transfer population helps us become of a more equal male-female ratio," he said. "If it were just our freshman class, it would be 72 percent female. And we've actually increased our male population in the freshman class the last two years. We think the institution is a better place if it's a more diverse place."

Two years ago, Foster said, the freshman class was 77 percent female.

Male magnets

So the College now recruits in-state male students in the 10th grade, trying to make them aware of what the school offers and getting in the mix earlier.

"It's very easy for an institution to fall into stereotypes," he said. "Some of the attractive things about Charleston are the beaches, arts and culture, the beautiful campus and great shopping, things that attract women. So we have to do a better job relating our history and other aspects of our college."

Black males are another area of concern.

"A tiny population and a lot of competition for them," Foster said.

Other reasons men aren't attracted to the College of Charleston are more basic.

"There are a few magnets for males that we don't have at the College," Foster said. "We don't have an engineering school, which is one of the largest male-populated academic areas.

"Another magnet is Division I athletics. Not having football hurts. There is a certain portion of the male population that writes us off because we don't have that experience. That's one of the things we have to overcome."

Reach Ken Burger at kburger@postandcourier.com or 937-5598 or follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Ken_Burger.