January 16, 2024
The fight for control of the White House and Congress in 2024 has already seen calls from candidates to fire “radical left” accreditors, end the tax-exempt status of elite universities and defund some colleges. It’s one sign among many that higher education policy, typically a back-burner issue in federal campaigns, could play an unusual role in this year’s elections.
Higher education has found itself increasingly in the headlines—and the political crosshairs—in recent years, as public confidence in the value of colleges and universities has plummeted. While younger progressives have agitated for student loan cancellation and boycotting Israel, Florida’s Republican governor, presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis, who finished second in Monday’s Iowa presidential caucuses, has sought to significantly reform colleges and universities in his state to end the “woke activism” that plagues it in the view of the right.
Last year’s controversies over President Biden’s attempts to cancel student debt, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority striking down that effort along with race-conscious admissions policies, and the tumult on campuses over the Israel-Hamas war have only turned up the heat on colleges and universities. Seeing an opening to make more sweeping changes to higher education, Republicans have recently latched on to the issue of campus antisemitism as a way to address their other concerns about the system, which they argue is out of touch and not meeting the needs of everyday Americans.