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Finally, a Chance to Start Getting Higher Ed Right

James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal

March 28, 2024

“Finally.” It’s a word those who’ve spent years sounding the alarm about the plight of higher education have been saying a lot lately. Finally, the thought-policing and groupthink have become undeniable. Finally, the cost of toxic dogmas is coming clear. Finally, the bloat and cartel-like behavior is being seen for what it is.

The train-wreck congressional testimony by the leaders of some of the nation’s most prestigious universities, the blatant and unrepentant campus antisemitism on display, and the laughably hypocritical double standards applied to speech have illustrated the problems in higher education, even for voters and policymakers who have neither the time nor the inclination to track the vagaries of campus goings-on. Major figures—including many donors—are staking out positions critical of higher education and withholding donations until there is change. The tide might finally be turning.

The American public sees what’s going on. Last year, Gallup reported that trust in higher education has plunged, with just 36 percent of Americans saying they had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in higher ed. The Wall Street Journal and the University of Chicago’s NORC research group found in 2023 that more than half of Americans thought that a four-year college education was no longer worth the cost “because people often graduate without specific job skills and with a large amount of debt.” The skepticism put an exclamation point on a decade-long trend during which the share of adults who valued a college degree had steadily declined.

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