- Activism is growing among high school students headed to college, according to counselors at more than half of postsecondary schools responding to a survey by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), which collected responses from 2,251 high school counselors.
- In addition to increased activism, 34.8% of counselors said the "current intensity of political rhetoric" has led to expressions of disillusionment among students, and 21.1% said it was causing students to pay more attention to colleges' political leanings.
- A related survey of college admissions and institutional research officers found the majority (61%) were having difficulty recruiting international students due to changes in the political and regulatory environment. Additionally, they said students are more interested in private colleges' political leanings (43.6%) than those of public colleges (27.3%), though the majority said students were not interested.
Research and recent events suggest these politically engaged high school students may feel at home on college campuses, where activism has been on the rise.
In March, a survey earlier this year by MTV and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research of 1,027 people ages 15 to 34 found that 40% felt angry, 36% felt anxious and 13% felt positive about the state of the country.
Many also felt motivated to act. Nearly half (47%) said they were paying attention to politics and a similar share said they were talking about issues pertaining to race (42%) and, slightly less so, gender (34%). One in five people (20%) said they were more likely than before to engage in political activism. And more than half of respondents who viewed current events negatively said they're highly likely to vote in the 2018 midterm elections.
Meanwhile, a study by research firm Campus Labs of college students at around 400 campuses over five years found a heightened interest in engagement among students, but not necessarily through traditional political parties or voting. The study found students were more likely to be involved in issue-based organizations, where they can address specific concerns or interests and participate with others having similar views.
Activism has been evident in the heated battle over a monument to confederate soldiers on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as symbols of racism at Dartmouth University and two California colleges. Last week, students at Seton Hall University in New Jersey demanding policies to combat institutional racism ended a 10-day sit-in at the administration building, Inside Higher Ed reported. And earlier this fall, more than 100 students at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County marched to the president's office to seek answers for what they felt was an inadequate response to allegations of rape on campus.
College administrators should expect increased levels of political engagement among students, and they are advised to hear them out. Additionally, administrators should be ready to address such issues with students early on in order to help manage the outcomes and to understand and uphold free speech law as it pertains to their campuses.