How colleges are the ruin of America

Sometimes, at a very select few, over-zealous students with insufficient respect for the values of free speech, protest speakers.  Oh, yeah, and lots of liberals work there.

So, just set aside the fact that American higher education is the envy of the world and is hugely important for producing a knowledgeable, skilled, productive workforce, clearly on the balance, colleges are bad for Amerrrica– right?

Well, sadly, that’s what a majority of Republicans now seem to believe.  Ugh.  Nice write-up in Insidehighered based on a recent Pew survey:

The partisan stratification is apparent even within the GOP. Nearly two-thirds of conservative Republicans (65 percent) said colleges have a negative impact, compared to 43 percent of moderate and liberal Republicans.

Viewers of right-leaning news media might not be surprised by Pew’s findings. Virtually every day Fox News, Breitbart and other conservative outlets run critical articles about free speech disputes on college campuses, typically with coverage focused on the perceived liberal orthodoxy and political correctness in higher education.

For example, Breitbart on Monday riffed on a report from The New York Times about a 35 percent enrollment decline at the University of Missouri at Columbia in the two years since racially charged protests occurred at the flagship university.

Bogus right-wing outlets also often target higher education. A fictitious story about California college students cutting off their genitals to protest Trump’s Mexican border wall plan recently made the rounds on purported news sites and social media.

In addition, Republican politicians in recent years have pushed back on the four-year degree, saying that not all jobs require the credential. Some also question the value of four-year degrees and criticize increasing college tuition levels.

Whatever the cause, a wide range of Republican voters are buying in to skepticism about higher education…

“Is the precipitous drop in conservative regard for postsecondary education reflecting a decline in confidence in higher education attainment as a sure path to socioeconomic mobility, or is this more about perceptions of ‘liberal bias’ in higher education among conservatives?” she said via email. “Are these attitudes more an expression of backlash against rising cost of college and student debt load, and the accompanying belief that colleges are businesses that care more about their bottom line than students (as we’ve found in our research), or is this about the rise of an emboldened anti-intellectualism in the wake of the last presidential election?”

More data would be nice, but I’m going to pretty confidently hazard this is about symbolism and cultural signifiers rather than dissatisfaction with college affordability and as a pathway for social mobility.  Especially, given the sharp shift, “emboldened anti-intellectualism” sounds about right.

And here’s an excellent tweetstorm on the matter from a Princeton professor:




About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to How colleges are the ruin of America

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    I strongly doubt that high income Republicans will discourage their children from going to college.
    It’s probably being floated to keep Trump’s base from listening to Bernie Sanders and other Democrats who want free college tuition in public universities and also from advocating for low cost student loans for college.

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