USA Today’s Laura Vanderkam comments on the growing trend of conservatism at college, but she suggests that its influence may wane beyond the campus walls.

The times they are a-changin’ at Brown and colleges across the country. Surveys of voter registration logs show college faculty members tilt left, but a new UCLA survey on “The American Freshman” finds that while self-identified liberals make up 24% of students vs. 38% in 1971, 21% of students say they’re conservative, up from 14% in 1973. Statistically, liberals and conservatives are neck and neck.

Call it a return on investment: Conservative groups have spent millions changing the debate on college campuses, funding and promoting speakers, clubs, magazines and even “affirmative-action bake sales” (minority students are charged 50 cents per cookie, whites, $1, to illustrate the injustice of racial preferences).

But the investment is yielding a low return. Right-leaning folks wanted to grow young reporters, academics, artists and public servants who would change the culture, not just the campus. Instead, they’ve grown activists who enjoy campus politics, but flee to the business world or conservative institutions after graduation. Until someone convinces young conservatives to battle up the low-paid ladder of newspapers and other mainstream institutions, conservatives will see livelier campus debates and bake sales for their money — but not much cultural change.

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