Yesterday, exit polls indicated that 59 percent of voters with college educations voted for Democrats, while only 39 percent voted for Republicans. Once upon a time, higher education received bipartisan support. Now, however, higher education is beginning to look like a single-party constituency. Just as business executives used to vote uniformly for republicans, we may be headed to a new world where well-educated voters are all (or mostly) democrats.
The implications of this realignment are profound. In the last Congress, Republicans chose to tax large higher education endowments. This raised virtually no revenue, and it was counter-produce from the perspective of economic growth, but it was politically popular with the republican base, which has come to despise “ultra-liberal” universities and “elites.” We may see a similar trend now in state legislatures, with conservatives attacking – and pulling support from — state university systems.
Public higher education institutions are the backbone of our post-K-12 education system. Over the last two decades, public financial support for these institutions has plummeted. If universities begin to look like a single party constituency, that trend may accelerate. We all need to give some thought to what this means for the future.