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To win back Republicans, poll figures suggest colleges need to rededicate themselves to education

Colleges are supposed to provide an education, but sometimes it’s hard to realize that’s their main purpose.

It can seem at times that higher education today is more focused on peddling identity politics, enabling student protests and kowtowing to noisy demands. The campus craziness has taken a toll on Republicans. A recent Pew Research Center poll found a majority of Republicans believe colleges are bad for the country.

However, the strategy to win back conservatives might be pretty simple. If colleges simply focus on providing an education that can secure jobs for students, they could have Republicans back in their corner. Take for instance a report written by Hannah Fingerhut of the Pew Center Center that highlights even as Republicans’ opinions toward higher education have soured, they still see value in a college degree.

From the report:

In a study last year of attitudes about the state of American jobs, majorities in both parties – regardless of their level of educational attainment – said a four-year degree prepares someone very or somewhat well for a well-paying job in today’s economy. However, Democrats and Democratic leaners were more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to say this (73% vs. 62%).

For those who have attended college themselves, the report notes there’s little partisan difference regarding opinions on the value of their degrees:

Comparable majorities of Republicans (89%) and Democrats (87%) who graduated from a four-year college said their education was useful in developing skills for the workplace, including about half in each group who said their education was very useful (53% and 52%, respectively).

And there was no partisan gap in the shares saying their education was useful in opening doors to job opportunities: 88% of Republicans and Republican leaners with at least a bachelor’s degree said this, compared with a similar share of Democrats and Democratic leaners (86%).

One interesting observation highlighted by Fingerhut is that while partisans of both stripes see value in attending college, they differ on what students should get out of their higher education experience:

In a two-way question, 58% of Republicans said the main purpose of college should be to teach specific skills and knowledge for the workplace; 28% said it should be personal growth. Democrats were divided: 43% said the main purpose of college should be to learn specific skills while 42% said personal growth.

Read the full report.

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