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With 61 percent of Americans viewing U.S. higher education going in the wrong direction, Republicans and Democrats are divisive on the reasons why.
According to a new Pew Research Center survey, almost three-quarters (73 percent) of Republicans and those leaning to the Republican Party, disclosed that higher education is moving in the wrong direction, while it’s almost split evenly among Democrats. This party and its leaners have 52 percent responding higher education is going in the wrong direction, while 46 percent said it’s moving in the right direction.
A further dive into the Democrats’ responses shows differences among age groups. Younger adults are most likely to have a negative opinion overall, with 61 percent aged 18 to 34 responding higher education is moving in the wrong direction. Meanwhile, 48 percent of Democrats ages 50 to 64 and 40 percent of those 65 and older also believe this. For those aged 35 to 49, 54 percent said the same.
Citing partisan differences regarding the direction of higher education is nothing new for Pew, as it conducted a similar survey in 2017. This year’s findings are consistent with last year’s, which disclosed that Republicans felt more negatively toward college professors as opposed to Democrats. Republicans have also become more negative about colleges and universities’ impact regarding the country’s direction.
Partisan Divide and Reasons
For Americans who see the country’s higher education system going in the wrong direction, 84 percent list high tuition costs as the top reason. Other reasons include students not receiving the skills needed for the workplace (65 percent); colleges and universities being too concerned about protecting students from potentially offensive views (54 percent); and professors bringing personal political and social views to class (50 percent).
The parties’ breakdown encompasses a vast divide for answering this question. Republicans who believe this to be true cited reasons such as professors bringing their political and social views into the classroom (79 percent), followed by 75 percent believing there is too great of a concern about protecting students from views they might find offensive. Meanwhile, a small number of Democrats concurred (17 percent and 31 percent, respectively).
In addition, as majorities of Republicans and Democrats do agree that higher education is going in the wrong direction and list insufficient workforce preparation and tuition costs as top reasons, a detailed look shows greater differences.
For 73 percent of Republicans, students not obtaining the skills they needed for workplace success is a top reason for higher education challenges versus the 56 percent of Democrats who share this belief. As for high tuition being a top reason for a broken higher education system, 92 percent of Democrats have this response as compared to 77 percent of the Republican-identifying respondents.
Furthermore, respondents shared additional reasons for the wrong direction other than the survey’s four choices. This includes students not being taught to think independently, affirmative action, and a lack of adequate funding, reported Pew.
Author: Debbie Baratz
Debbie Baratz has written about topics including personal finance, financial markets, and banking. And as a media relations professional, she spent 10+ years working at not-for-profit, private, and publicly-traded financial institutions. When Debbie isn’t working, she can be found working out, reading, or traveling.