Currently American institutions are under fire. It is undeniable as annual public surveys show faith in all institutions eroding, with the one exception being our military. The media is currently setting itself on fire, with alternatives providing counter narratives and President Trump pointing out the daily lies. One institution ripe for the next battleground is the American university system.
This may not appear to be the case right now, but the chess pieces are being arranged on the board with each graduating class. This could be a bipartisan push if surveys are to be believed. Recent surveys show that right wing voters now view the university system unfavorably not just from a cost perspective but due to Marxist and SJW ideologies run amok. The left knowing it owns the universities has no problem from an ideological point of view but is upset with the cost involved in earning a degree. In another survey, universities were ranked low for trustworthy institutions by the right, but top 3 for the left. Some on the left are just oblivious to what goes on inside the college bubble and with a proper PR campaign could be persuaded that universities need a house cleaning. Any politician could use the Twitter feed of Real Peer Review to win the argument.
Small private universities will implode in the next decade. Already small universities are closing, merging, and selling off assets to better situated universities. This will cause a centralization of sorts. Universities with specialties, pipelines to corporations and cachet will survive. Those universities that shut down will just shuffle students to other colleges. Not much changes about the underlying system even if 20 to 40% of private universities close. The university system is large and deep and to take it on requires coordination and will.
Current messaging and policy ideas from the left are pure giveaways to indebted students, which is a giveaway to universities. The universities will not change tuition and costs with a debt jubilee and will simply restart the cycle as written here at the Sun. Right wing politicians are beginning to take notice about the problems on campus. Their problem is lacking policy prescriptions to change universities and the will to do so. Despite knowing universities hate them, no right winger attacks the university system. Solidly red Tennessee jabbed at the diversity madness and it lasted one year.
The sales pitch is there for a red state governor to use a multi year PR campaign followed by policies that wipe away debt for residents that goes back to the university system that received said loans. The follow up is for the negotiators with the unions of the public schools to go hard against them and use their intransigence as a privileged guild versus poor students of all backgrounds.
A reduction in funding or outright defunding will cause universities to see the flow of dollars drop. Funds can be re-directed from the public universities to trade schools to make up for the skilled labor skills gap corporations complain about in the media. This will pour fuel on the fire some universities face in the public system like in Illinois. Others are on the precipice of problems as enrollment will start to hit the birth dearth of the 2000s. It will cause the beast that has for decades grown to have to contemplate stagnation or a reduction in headcount. This may not sound like much to those in private employment who deal with this when a product fails or in a recession, but it would be vicious to public institutions unaccustomed to this situation.
One particular policy approach could be seeding a debt reduction program with a straight 10% tax on endowments. Currently, universities enjoy the lack of competition due to location. The same can be done in reverse as they cannot escape their situs state incorporation. A simple 10% endowment tax would not just seed a debt abatement program, but it would hurt the universities. The indirect play against the universities in the state is to deny them infrastructure money and state funded projects.
Universities would have to juggle their bargaining employees, the needs of the administration, and the issue of an aging workforce. Academia screeches about privilege, hierarchy, and inequality all the while being the most privileged workers in America. There are no forced retirements. There are no age caps. How would a university cut back on departments when any cut back could be called racist, sexist, or homophobic?
Governors in redder states can pitch this as a people-first policy versus an entrenched institution. Expose the details of collective bargaining agreements via Twitter releases. The key is a media campaign that builds towards that states legislature session. Incorporating into a campaign would make this a signature issue for any new governor, beyond tweaking incremental tax schedules and business giveaways. This effort would avoid a culture war issue for gun shy red state governors. A governor would be wise to avoid criticism of the K through 12 education system and focus on the universities. Being in a red state, he will have more buy in from the population which will encourage legislators who are in swing districts to take a stand.
The universities are the heart of the left’s American system. Any attack on the universities impairs the system’s ability to function and churn out horrible ideas. Whether ideological support from the right or financial reform focused support from the left, a coalition is there to cause pain, that while facially seems like a bipartisan, neutral financial push, indirectly attacks the roots of the left’s strength.