Republicans can beat Democrats when it comes to college reforms

Republicans can beat Democrats when it comes to college reforms
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For decades, the education industry in the United States has been an incubator for the far left ideas that fuel the base of the Democratic Party. But skyrocketing college costs have a majority of Americans questioning the value a four year liberal arts degree. The growing disenchantment with college poses a direct threat to the future of hardcore progressivism.

The leftist grip on campuses is well documented. Liberal faculty members outnumber their conservative colleagues by six to one. The margin is twice as lopsided among college administrators with direct responsibility over daily campus life. Control of college campuses is certainly key to the progressive business model. Yet two recent polls conducted by Heritage Action suggest that Americans are now growing weary of supporting it.

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Our first poll surveyed registered Republican voters and found 74 percent felt a four year liberal arts degree is no longer worth the cost. When asked if American workers need more skills training to compete in the global economy, 70 percent said yes. Republican voters, at least, see the education industry as failing the United States. Colleges across the nation are providing poor value for the money and generally not offering the types of education needed to ensure a prosperous future.

Our second poll surveyed likely voters in 15 battleground House districts, 10 of which are held by Democrats and all of which are expected to be highly competitive in the 2020 election. We asked them if there are “many skilled labor jobs available in America that pay as much or more than jobs that require a college degree and do not require young people to go into debt with student loans.” A majority of the respondents agreed with that statement. Yet candidates in the 2020 Democratic primary field appear desperate to keep pouring more taxpayer money into Big Academia.

Democratic Senator Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Keystone XL Pipeline gets nod from Nebraska Supreme Court MORE of Massachusetts and South Bend Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Buttigieg unveils plan to strengthen mental health care, fight addiction MORE of Indiana are the two most recent examples. Warren has been aggressive in her attempt to fortify the partnership between higher education and the government. Central to her proposal is bailing out student loan debt using taxpayer dollars. This effectively punishes working class Americans who chose to pursue a trade or other route, while rewarding typically wealthier Americans taking on student debt.

Her proposal would also not make college more affordable. Colleges have happily deposited more and more federal funds for decades, while raising tuition rates and other costs higher and higher. Knowing that Uncle Sam is willing to pay off student loans will only encourage colleges across the nation to raise prices and students to take on even more burdening debt.

Buttigieg expresses the right sentiment but has the wrong solution. At a recent town hall event, he lamented the fact that those without college degrees, who make up half the nation, already subsidizes the other half who take advantage of cut rate federal loans to pay for college. He said, “As a progressive, I have a hard time getting my head around the idea of a majority who earn less because they did not go to college subsidize a minority who earn more because they did.” Yet he backed the ideas of student loan bailouts and more spending on higher education programs.

Republicans would be smart to meet Democrats head on in this policy issue. It is one they can certainly win. The goals of Republicans should be to drive down college costs by reining in the giant federal subsidies for universities and to empower Americans who prefer to take a different route other than college, such as pursuing a trade or an apprenticeship.

Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah has offered a plan to do just that. His Higher Education Reform and Opportunity Act would allow states to set up credentialing systems for trade, apprenticeships, and other training programs to help people gain the skills needed to lock down well paying and stable jobs that can provide for families and enrich communities. Republican Senator Mike Braun and Republican Congressman Jim Banks, both of Indiana, have proposed a pilot program that would allow high school graduates interested in pursuing these solid programs to do so.

As long as the federal government offers student loans and grants, it should at least level the playing field. Working class Americans who wish to pursue a trade should be on par with those who desire to earn a college degree. For generations, a college degree was seen as a golden ticket to a lucrative career, one worth the price of admission. But the value of going has become increasingly suspicious, even as its cost has soared higher.

Today, it seems Big Academia is dedicated more to indoctrination than education and more to acquiring federal subsidies than equipping the rising generation with the skills and knowledge needed for a useful and prosperous future. Americans are having second thoughts about the value of a traditional college degree. It is time for politicians to seriously rethink how they are spending taxpayer money on postsecondary education.

Tim Chapman is the executive director of Heritage Action for America.