Conservative Students Can, and Must, Fix Higher Education

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My wife and I are physicians. We were blessed to have trained at some of the historically best universities in the United States. However, we would not consider sending our children to any of the so-called “prestigious” universities.

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The fundamental concept of going to a “prestigious” college is that, at the end, there is the promise of a good job. Many conservative students feel that they must compromise their principles to obtain higher education and the promised job opportunities that come with it. However, as conservatives, these institutions hate who we are and what we believe in. Why would we cross our fingers hoping that our children can weather the intense pressure to conform to the intolerant, godless, progressive indoctrination these institutions espouse? Even if they could hold up, they would likely feel isolated and the need to hide or lie about what they truly believe.

But, hey, at least they’ll get a good job.

Many conservatives believe that the solution is for today’s youth to forego college altogether. They suggest this for good reason, as many trade schools allow their students to complete training sooner, earn excellent salaries, and carry less debt.

Yet, a better solution must exist as the full abdication of liberal arts training to the left would be a grave mistake. We still need conservatives emerging with the skills to engage in tracks more apt for leadership roles. Thankfully, when my daughter began looking into colleges, we learned that there is a cadre of excellent, smaller colleges that still adhere to a classically liberal education and respect conservative values. Of course, they were deemed less “prestigious” in college rankings.

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“Prestige” is not necessarily indicative of the quality of teaching. In my experience, some of the best teaching I received came from professors at our local community college and not the Ivy-level institutions I attended. This is especially true of the lower-level classes common in undergraduate curricula. Thus, the quality of teaching at these smaller schools is frequently excellent.

How can smaller conservative schools become “prestigious”?

It wouldn’t take much. If only a small number of conservative students bypass the historically “prestigious” universities and instead decide to attend smaller conservative colleges those colleges would become the new elite schools as their average GPA and SAT scores would skyrocket.

For example, students at the University of Michigan have an average SAT score of ~1,430. Of those 29,851 students, undoubtedly many are closet conservatives. If even 500 of those conservative students instead decided to follow their beliefs to the nearby, more conservative Spring Arbor University the average SAT score at Spring Arbor would increase from 1,085 to 1,263. This estimate undoubtedly underestimates the change in SAT score as the remaining students would likely be closer to the upper end of the Spring Arbor student base. Meaning Spring Arbor’s new average SAT score of 1,314 would make it the third-best university in Michigan, only behind the University of Michigan and Hillsdale (another great conservative college). Further, as more students see the rising scores, they too may choose to go with the conservative alternative, thereby further elevating the scores and relative prestige.

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This has already been demonstrated by the aforementioned Hillsdale college, which experienced a flood of applicants after it openly espoused its conservative bona fides. Meanwhile, its ranking has skyrocketed to 14th best liberal arts college in the 2018 Kiplinger rankings after not being listed in the top 50 in 2008.

Thankfully, there are many more outstanding options for conservative students. Even at the graduate level of education, great alternatives are emerging such as the forth-coming Padre Pio Medical School.

Fixing American higher education must start somewhere. Even if only a small number of high-academic conservative students choose to adhere to their principles and attend ideologically complementary universities, the entire landscape of higher education will change. Conservative colleges would be elevated and break the near monopoly of the progressive left institutions. Perhaps this increased competition could force at least some of the “prestigious” universities to open themselves up to true diversity, the diversity of thought.

Ironically, students possess the power to make this change as it is the caliber of the student that makes the college prestigious and not the other way around. This is why the “prestigious” progressives who corrupted these institutions so long ago are terrified their customers, America’s students, will figure this out.

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Chad Savage ([email protected]) is a policy advisor with The Heartland Institute.

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