Affordability, relevance and political correctness are among problems faced by America’s colleges today. They also face a sharp decline in support from Republican voters.
The nation’s higher ed system may have reached a tipping point, according to a survey released July 10 by Pew Research, which showed sharp attitudinal differences toward a college education between Republicans and Democrats.
While more than half (55 percent) of Americans overall believe colleges and universities “have a positive effect on the way things are going in the country,” a solid majority (58 percent) of Republicans for the first time said colleges have a negative impact on US life. That negative view is up from 45 percent in 2016.
My hunch is that Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency deserve some credit for the sharp rise in poor opinion of college held by GOPers.
Pew found that conservative Republicans are more negative about college than moderates by a 65 percent to 43 percent margin.
Republican college graduates are becoming less positive toward higher ed. Positive views of colleges fell 11 points to 33 percent for grads compared to a 20 point plunge to 37 percent for non-grads.
Lower-income GOPers are most bullish on college. The poll shows that families with annual incomes of less than $30K are more positive about colleges than families with higher incomes by a 46 percent to 33 percent margin.
In contrast to Republicans, Democrats remain supportive of colleges. More than seven-in-ten (72 percent) of Democrats are positive on higher-ed. That upbeat view has held steady in recent years.
Republican displeasure with colleges will only grow under GOP control of the House and Senate and a White House that is hardly an advocate for scholarship.
It's PR crisis time for college representatives. Groups such as the National Assn. of Independent Colleges and Universities, which bills itself as the “voice” of more than 1,000 private non-profit schools, and the Assn. of American Colleges and Universities (“a voice and a force for liberal education in the 21st Century” for 1,350 members), have their PR work cut out for them.