Politics divide views of higher ed's impact on nation
- A new study from the Pew Research Center shows Democrats and Republicans differ greatly on their perception of the value of higher education in the nation's positive forward movement.
- A majority of Republicans (45%) say that higher education has a negative effect on the country, while 72% of Democrats believe colleges and universities have a positive impact.
- The disparity in impact perspective was the second highest in the survey, behind the differences of opinion on the impact of the national media.
It is possible for citizens with two different ideologies to be correct at the same time. For people with a liberal perspective, it is correct to believe that higher education and its role in creating wealth, prosperity and independent thinking is helpful to the nation's fortunes. For conservatives, the increasing student loan debt, politics and widening opportunity gap in higher education are legitimate reasons to feel negatively about the industry.
For both sides, much of the perspective may be shaped by the current administration, and prospects for the next candidate to occupy the White House. But even with those variables, college leaders should view this information as a chance to gain further insight into the minds of their future donors, customers, sports fans, vendors and community members.