A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Title IX: 25 Years of Progress -- June 1997

Title IX:
A Sea Change in Gender Equity in Education

Athletic competition builds character in our boys. We do not need that kind of character in our girls.--Connecticut judge, 1971

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any educational programs or activity receiving federal financial assistance. -- From the preamble to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972

Civil rights laws have historically been a powerful mechanism for effecting social change in the United States. They represent a national commitment to end discrimination and establish a mandate to bring the excluded into the mainstream. These laws ensure that the federal government delivers on the Constitution's promise of equal opportunity so that every individual has the right to develop his or her talents.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 bolsters this national agenda and prohibits sex discrimination in federally assisted education programs. Modeled on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting race, color, and national origin discrimination, it was followed by three other pieces of civil rights legislation: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibiting disability discrimination; the Age Discrimination Act of 1975; and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibiting disability discrimination by public entities.

Twenty-five years after the passage of Title IX, we recognize and celebrate the profound changes this legislation has helped bring about in American education and the resulting improvements in the educational and related job opportunities for millions of young Americans. While no definitive study has been done on the full impact of Title IX, this "snapshot" report suggests that Title IX has made a positive difference in the lives of many Americans.

Substantial progress has been made, for example, in overcoming the education gap that existed between men and women in completing four years of college. In 1971, 18 percent of female high school graduates were completing at least four years of college compared to 26 percent of their male peers. Today, that education gap no longer exists. Women now make up the majority of students in America's colleges and universities in addition to making up the majority of those receiving master's degrees. Women are also entering business and law schools in record numbers. Indeed, the United States stands alone and is a world leader in opening the doors of higher education to women.

As this report makes clear, many barriers have been brought down that once prevented girls and women from choosing the educational opportunities and careers they would have liked to pursue. The history of this progress begins 25 years ago with the passage of Title IX.

The Legislative Road to Title IX

As the women's civil rights movement gained momentum in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Americans began to focus attention on inequities that inhibited the progress of women and girls in education. The issue of sex bias in education moved into the public policy realm when Representative Edith Green (Oregon) introduced a higher education bill with provisions regarding sex equity. The hearings that Green held were the first ever devoted to this topic and are considered the first legislative step toward the enactment of Title IX.

Women Not Admitted

Virginia state law prohibited women from being admitted to the College of Arts and Sciences of the University of Virginia, the most highly rated public institution of higher education in the state. It was only under court order in 1970 that the first woman was admitted. -- Kirstein v. Rector and Visitors of University of Virginia, 309 F.Supp. 184 (E.D. Va. 1970).

Congressional activity on the issue increased, and in 1971 several education bills that included sex discrimination proposals were introduced in the House. In the Senate, amendments by Senators Birch Bayh (Indiana) and George McGovern (South Dakota) to an omnibus education proposal outlawed sex discrimination in higher education programs. In total, five proposals--all different--in the House, Senate, and White House proposed to end sex discrimination in education. Although there was growing agreement that sex discrimination in education should end, there was little agreement as to the best methods for reaching that goal. It took a House-Senate Conference Committee several months to settle on the more than 250 differences between the House and Senate education bills, 11 of which spoke to sex discrimination. The final legislation--the provision against sex discrimination--became Title IX.

Married Women Not Wanted

Luci Baines Johnson, the daughter of President Lyndon Johnson, was refused readmission to Georgetown University's school of nursing after her marriage: in 1966, the school did not permit married women to be students.

Title IX was adopted by the Conference Committee and sent to the full Senate, which approved it on May 22, 1972. It then went to the House, and was passed on June 8. President Nixon signed Title IX on June 23, and on July 1 it went into effect. While developing the implementing regulations for Title IX, the then-U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) received more than 9,700 comments. The final regulations were published on July 20, 1974. President Gerald Ford signed the Title IX regulations on May 27, 1975 and they were then submitted to Congress for review.

Everyone Benefits from Title IX

Title IX prohibits institutions that receive federal funding from practicing gender discrimination in educational programs or activities. Because almost all schools receive federal funds, Title IX applies to nearly everyone. The Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education is charged with enforcing the civil rights and regulations in education, extending protection to

  • about 51.7 million elementary and secondary school students;
  • about 14.4 million college and university students;
  • almost 15,000 school districts;
  • more than 3,600 colleges and universities;
  • more than 5,000 proprietary schools; and
  • thousands of libraries, museums, vocational rehabilitation agencies, and correctional facilities.


[ Indicators of Progress... ] [ Table of Contents ] [ Achieving Success Under Title IX ]

Last Updated -- July 10, 1997, (pjk)