Just 33% of GOPers say they feel confident in higher ed
The Grand Old Frat Party may soon be no more.
Just 33% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they have confidence in higher education in the U.S., according to a Gallup poll released this week, compared to 56% of Democrats and leaners indicating “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence.
Chief among the reasons for GOPers’ waning confidence: colleges are too liberal and political. The next most common reason was that institutions are “pushing their own agenda” and “not allowing students to think for themselves.”
Democrats’ top reason, meanwhile, was that higher ed is too expensive. (Average net tuition and fees after financial aid were $3,770 for a public four-year institution in-state and $14,220 for a private nonprofit four-year institution in 2016-17, according to the College Board.) Many also felt schools had poor leadership, bad policies and too much corporate interest.
“In short, Republicans with low confidence tend to see the world of higher education through distinctly political eyes,” the Gallup report concluded.
The poll, based on phone interviews with a random sample of 1,017 U.S. adults, didn’t find the same partisan divides in respondents’ reasons for high confidence. Most cited positive personal experiences with college, believing higher ed is essential for the country and believing colleges were doing a good job of training and educating students.
Though Gallup hasn’t previously tracked confidence in colleges and universities, a Pew Research study conducted in June showed a sharp dip since 2015 in Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who said higher ed had a positive effect on the country: 58% percent said its effect was negative and 36% said it was positive, compared to 54% positive and 37% negative just two years earlier.
Democrats’ attitudes remained relatively constant, with 72% in the most recent survey saying higher-ed institutions had a positive effect on the U.S.
Partisan divides aside, stats about the benefits of college speak for themselves: Just 2.7% of full-time workers 25 and older with bachelor’s degrees were unemployed in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, compared to 5.2% who had a high school diploma. Weekly earnings were higher, too — with college grades making a median $1,156 and their degree-less counterparts bringing home $692.
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