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Poll: Confidence in US higher education in steep decline

Confidence in higher education in the United States has seen a steep decline since 2015. And the waning confidence is not limited to the general public either - academics are losing faith as well.

Published: April 13, 2019, 7:53 am

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    According to polling institution Gallup, universities are the worst-performing institutions they measure. A lack of affordability have eroded the faith of Americans in their institutions of higher learning.

    Concerns about the future of their workplace were also noted within academia, with college and university trustees and board members expressing doubts about the future.

    Many administrators are intimately familiar with how higher learning institutions operate and impact society. The AGB 2018 Trustee Index, a recent study conducted by the Association of Governing Boards and Gallup, found that three in four trustees (74 percent) were concerned or very concerned about the future of higher education in the US. They focused largely on one issue however, that of affordability.

    College and university trustees blame the drop in public confidence on negative media reports about student debt (72 percent) and news reports on the cost of tuition (64 percent). Thus, more than half of trustees (58 percent) say their top concern is the cost of universities.

    The main problem facing these institutions is however the glaring lack of political choice on campus. A state lawmaker in Iowa has suggested that universities consider political affiliation in connection with hiring practices in order to balance out the distribution of political representation on the faculty.

    Conservatives on campus are completely outnumbered, given that about 60 percent of faculty identify as politically leftwing. This imbalance has hurt research, open discourse and freedom of expression.

    In 2017, Mitchell Langbert, an associate professor of business at Brooklyn College, published a study of the political affiliations of faculty members at 51 of the 66 liberal-arts colleges ranked highest by US News. The findings were startling, revealing a ratio of Democrats to Republicans is 70 to 1.

    In music, it is 33 to 1. In biology, it is 21 to 1. In philosophy, history and psychology, it is 17 to 1, and in political science, it is 8 to 1. The gap is slightly narrower in science and engineering. In physics, economics and mathematics, the ratio is around 6 to 1. In chemistry, it is 5 to 1.

    The only ray of light was engineering, were the ration was just 1,6 to 1.

    Bloomberg reported that the faculties of Wellesley, Williams and Swarthmore are currently so overwhelmingly left-leaning scoring ratios of above 120 to 1. At the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, it is much better, with 2,3 to 1 and 1,3 to 1 at military academy West Point.

    But despite the variability, none of the 51 colleges had more Republicans than Democrats. And according to the survey, over a third of universities had no Republicans at all.

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