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No, red states are not scaring away college students: poll

A new Gallup poll has determined, perhaps unsurprisingly, that laws restricting guns, abortion and DEI are not scaring away droves of students from attending colleges in red states.

The primary considerations of most young people choosing schools are things like the costs and quality of the institution, whether it meets their academic and life needs, and whether the degree in question is likely to get them the kind of job they want, the poll found.

In effect, a female student in a state that has outlawed abortion might be upset she can’t get one where she lives — but that doesn’t mean she’s going to move out of the state over it.

The poll takes care never to ask anything concrete, like: “Which matters more, in-state tuition or access to an easy abortion?”

It’s interesting to attempt to quantify how much influence state politics has on college decision-making. Of course the cost of the education matters a lot. In-state public tuition is always a bargain compared to out-of-state tuition or private tuition.

While most students reported that topics such as gun laws, reproductive rights and protecting DEI are on some level important to them, only a small percentage thought they were very important.

With that, while 48 percent of students find it “extremely important” that there are opportunities for “good paying jobs in your chosen field of study,” only 21 percent of students find it “extremely important” that laws in the college’s state provide access to “reproductive health services.”

That is a significant difference in importance, as there should be.

The issue of affirmative action, which was also polled, works out very differently.

The poll found “nearly half of adults who have considered pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the last two years say recent updates to race-based affirmative action in college admissions will affect their decision to enroll in a degree program.”

This makes sense. Thinking about how race-based affirmative action might impact your decision is qualitatively very different than thinking about state laws on guns, DEI, and abortion. The latter three issues are policy preferences, but affirmative action policy is a condition that could easily impact the success or failure of your application.

The poll found: “Three-quarters of Asian adults and more than half of Black adults who are considering pursuing a bachelor’s degree say the Supreme Court’s decision to ban affirmative action will have ‘a great deal’ or ‘a fair amount’ of influence on their decision to pursue a degree.”

“The two groups of prospective students most likely to say this ruling affects their enrollment decision are Asian and Black adults,” the Gallop report states.

“However, it is important to note that respondents did not indicate whether the impact of the ruling would make them more or less likely to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Therefore, Asian respondents may be more likely to apply to college after Students for Fair Admissions, while Black respondents may be less likely to apply.”

The fact that the Students for Fair Admissions SCOTUS case was decided in favor of the Asian students who brought the case, and against the affirmative action policy, means that it may be easier for Asian students to apply successfully to more elite schools.

The opposite might be true for a black student who did not happen to have distinguished grades and scores. That student, knowing that affirmative action would not be in place to help push a weaker applicant across the admissions process at a more elite school, might choose to also apply to schools that are a better match for her grades and scores.

That is a concrete, realistic assessment of how a policy might potentially work. It doesn’t mean the applicant is unhappy with the outcome.

At the end of the day, students will continue to apply to and enroll in universities in states with tighter abortion laws or which do not teach DEI — as long as their primary educational needs are met.

MORE: 89% of Ivy League grads support ‘strict’ rationing of gas, meat, electricity to fight climate change: poll

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