If public trust in institutions is a good indicator of the health of the republic, the United States can look forward to further political polarization.
Every major institution, from Congress to the press, is at or below 50 percent in public approval – save one, the military – and, worse, many of the divides include large partisan gaps. Increasingly, and arguably with good reason, Republicans have less and less faith that many of our country’s once-neutral institutions are staying out of the political ballgame, fearing that they’ve joined the fight for the other team.
That conclusion is well-supported in the case of universities. Just half of adults think colleges and universities have a positive effect on the way things are going in the country, a sharp drop off even from just four years ago, when 63 percent of them thought the impact of universities was positive overall. Unsurprisingly, the number who are actively reporting that our institutions of higher learning are having a negative effect has seen a steep rise, from 28 percent to 38 percent over the same time period.
That’s right, nearly four in ten adults think that the university system – the same system that rich actresses were convicted of bribing to admit their kids – is actually hurting the country.
The drop off in confidence is driven primarily by Republicans. While two-thirds of Democrats still see universities as a force for good, Republican support has fallen off a cliff, from a solid 54 percent down to 33.
It’s not difficult to see why rank-and-file Republican voters are losing faith in colleges and universities. New horror stories of restricted speech, extreme left-wing protests that turn violent, and laughable-but-creepy SJW classes like “critical whiteness studies” make the news almost daily. And many of the cultural war flashpoints of today, like arguments over gender identity, were incubated in the radical academy.
The real question is not why Republican voters have changed their opinions about college but why the Republican Party continues to support them with billions in grants and taxpayer-subsidized loans.
Without public financial support, 17-year-old students looking to study feminist literature for $150,000 in tuition and living expenses would have to look to private banks for a loan, and those banks would only be writing the check if they saw a high likelihood of getting their money back.
Instead, government largess to universities has been granted on the backs of the two-thirds of Americans who don’t have a four-year degree, and those universities have no real incentive to ensure that the fields of study they offer are connected to the sticker price. Instead of helping more students into the middle class, government intervention has assured universities of big bucks with no skin in the game, skyrocketed college costs, and left a generation with crippling debt.
Republican voters have woken up to the scam that is higher education. The Republican Party should follow suit and end the preferential treatment universities can no longer show they deserve.