The following was originally published by The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

By Rick Dalton, Jon Reidel, and Bob Seaberg

Colleges will confront a problematic diversity issue as students return to campus in the coming weeks, but not the one the Supreme Court recently made top of mind.

In 2021, women outnumbered men 59 to 41 percent in undergraduate enrollment, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. By 2025, that gap is projected to split 62 percent to 38 percentSome colleges already have female enrollments of 65 or even 70 percent.

The gap is a predictable outgrowth of boys’ lagging academic performance pre-college. Girls surpass them in every academic subject including STEM, in elementary, middle, and high school. Girls are also more likely to graduate from high school on time.

An emerging world where men receive far less education than women has drastic implications. Significant gender imbalances in professions requiring a college degree would constrain a diversity of perspectives, experiences, and ideas. Income inequality would likely worsen as men‘s contributions to middle- and lower-income households decrease. Facing frustration and failure, men’s mental health would decline, fraying family and social ties. And political polarization would accelerate along gender lines, since education level and ideology are so closely correlated.

This would also dramatically impact the nation’s earnings and economy. Men with only a high-school degree earn $1.2 million less over their lifetimes than bachelor’s degree holders, according to a 2020 study by the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth. Increasing the number of people with bachelors degrees, on the other hand, boosts GDP.

For Black men, the picture is even bleaker. Only 76 percent of Black male students graduated from high school in 2021, compared with 87 percent of white males, according to a Brookings Institution analysis of five states with available data. The divide grows wider in college. Black males had a six-year graduation rate of 34 percent, compared with 44 percent for Black females, 61 percent for white males, and 67 percent for white females, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Fortunately, this through-the-looking-glass version of gender inequality, with its attendant harms, is not inevitable. Philanthropy can help rewrite the script by funding and supporting education success for men of all races.

Support K-12 reform. Unequal college attendance has many complex causes. But partial blame goes to outmoded teaching methods that don’t serve today’s boys, who spend more time playing video games and using screens and less time doing homework than girls do.

Curricula that let boys indulge their competitive instincts, engage in hands-on and project-based learning, explore topics with real-world relevance, and let off steam physically would help. So would first-rate career and technical education options, whose quality has improved in recent years.

Philanthropists could fund pilot programs that employ these strategies, modeled on successful efforts. That includes Ron Brown College Preparatory High School, an all-male public charter school in Washington, D.C., that graduates and sends a majority of its students to post-secondary education. It utilizes a rigorous curriculum that connects to students’ cultures, strong college counseling, and community partners that offer paid internships, career development, mentorship, mental-health coaching, and academic skills development.

Donors who fund similar programs could collaborate to form networks of like-minded schools and raise public awareness about why such programs work and are necessary.

Nonprofits such as MenTeach, the Male Teacher of Color Initiative, and the Center for Black Educator Development cultivate future teachers as early as high school, exposing them to the profession, offering financial assistance for college, and providing mentorship.

Support college readiness. Students and families increasingly question the value of higher education, a trend the pandemic accelerated. The college-readiness organization we are part of, CFES Brilliant Pathways, demonstrates that college is a worthy investment through mentorship programs, corporate partnerships where students can hear about employees’ paths to college, application help, and skills-development focused on traits such as perseverance, goal setting, and leadership. For example, we worked with the University of Vermont to develop the Young Men of Talent program. It assists young Black and Latino men in the college-application process, then supports them once they’re on campus with mentoring from local business leaders and paid summer internships.

Other groups with similar missions use academic tutoring, career exploration, character development, and social support to help boys and young men get to college. They include the National Urban League’s Project Ready Mentor initiative, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and the Boys Initiative.

HBCUs also work with K-12 schools on how to engage students of color, such as infusing curricula with culturally relevant material and setting the expectation that students will attend college.

Offer more than dollars. In-kind support from grant makers is just as valuable as financial support, says Jenard Moore, director of the Male Academic and Student Success program at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Its largest donor, for example, organized a network of local companies to hold resume-writing and mock interview sessions for students. Those companies were also encouraged to make financial contributions to the university. Other organizations could increase the impact of their donations with similar, hands-on support, Moore suggests.

Government dollars targeting education issues will always, of course, dwarf even the most generous philanthropic programs. Large urban school systems, for example, routinely have budgets of $1 billion or more. To be most effective, philanthropy should identify, fund, and rigorously track the results of promising programs with proven success so policymakers can expand them widely, says Sekou Biddle, vice president for advocacy and student professional development programs at the United Negro College Fund.

The long-overdue progress girls and women have made in recent decades is one of society’s great achievements. More work needs to be done, especially in the top echelons of business and government, where men still greatly outnumber women. But supporting our daughters can’t mean forgetting our sons, especially Black and Latino boys, who are at greatest risk of falling behind academically.

As the Supreme Court decision on affirmative action forces universities to identify new ways to achieve diversity, attracting more men to campuses and helping them succeed once they get there should be integral to that work. Philanthropy can help ensure that men and women attend and graduate from college in equal numbers — a vital component of an equitable and economically healthy society.