January 9, 2023
Bitter partisan divides have deepened over the past few years, and college campuses are experiencing the effects of this trend firsthand.
For one, Americans are deeply split in their opinions of higher education. Almost three-quarters of surveyed Democrats, 73%, said they believe colleges are leading America in a positive direction, compared to just 37% of Republicans, according to a 2022 poll from think tank New America.
And in the past few years, state lawmakers have increasingly proposed restrictive higher education legislation, including efforts to eliminate tenure protections, eliminate DEI offices and control the curriculum.
These types of efforts typically target public colleges. But private institutions are now grappling with similar challenges, and these concerns took center stage at The Council of Independent Colleges’ Presidents Institute, an annual gathering of institutional leaders.
During a Thursday panel, leaders from three private nonprofits suggested that their sector is facing more pressure from federal lawmakers, donors and other external constituencies than they have in the past.
“I would have said before that independent higher ed is much less influenced by politics, partisanship — all of those things,” said Colorado College President L. Song Richardson.