A Liberal Professor On the GOP’s Higher Ed Platform

“The status quo is not working.” That’s the message Republican delegates attached to a party platform detailing several policy goals affecting higher education that was formally approved on Tuesday night at the GOP convention in Tampa. Citing the ever-rising cost of college — student loan debt rose $914 billion in the second quarter — convention speakers particularly highlighted the need for “lending support to new learning systems that compete with traditional four-year colleges,” says the Chronicle of Higher Education.

These alternatives are

  • community colleges and technical institutions
  • private training schools
  • online universities
  • life-long learning (rather vague, this one)
  • work-based learning in the private sector

Not surprisingly, Republicans want the private sector to play a greater role in providing college education for students and also in funding it by restoring the sort of bank-based lending program that Congress ended in 2010. Rather than the federal government itself providing student loans, the GOP wants it to serve as an “serve as an insurance guarantor for the private sector as they offer loans to students.”

That is, if a private sector institution fails, the government can pick up the tab? That’s a scenario that sounds familiar — ever heard of a bank getting a government bailout? — and ill-advised.

Universities, Those Bastions of Leftist Ideology!

Well, that’s my opinion but you would hardly think I’d be a bank-loving free-enterprise favoring capitalist. I’m a so-called “tenured radical,” which position I made clear in my title, as the Republican platform makes especial mention of a liberal “ideological bias” that is “deeply entrenched within the current university system” and the need to combat this and save our children.

In particular, says the GOP platform, the trustees of public institutions “have a responsibility to the public to ensure that their enormous investment is not abused for political indoctrination.” Accordingly, state officials must

…ensure that our public colleges and universities be places of learning and the exchange of ideas, not zones of intellectual intolerance favoring the Left.

As the Chronicle of Higher Education, points out, the 2008 Republican platform similarly criticized “leftist dogmatism that dominates” on many college campuses.

The platform’s claim that faculty could be subjecting students to “political indoctrination” smacks of conspiracy theories of an earlier era. I can’t vouch (I don’t think anyone could) for the political persuasion and positions of faculty at my own institution or in the US as a whole. Teaching students to think critically for themselves is a fundamental of university teaching.

While myself a liberal, I teach a supra-traditional subject, Classics, to many students who don’t agree at all with my position on (to name a potentially inflammatory topic when you’re teaching seminarians) abortion. My students want to learn to read Latin and ancient Greek and I want to teach them to learn these dead languages that we can sit and read ancient writers together rather than going through yet another verb tense. We focus on the grammar, we get along and when, a sensitive topic comes up, we know that we may disagree about many things. But we already have learned how to talk to each other and we share a love of learning, in our different ways.

I will note that (good news for the GOP), there are indeed educational institutions in the US that don’t exactly have such a liberal bias. They do tend to be private ones, Ave Maria University or Christendom College (as you can see from the names of those schools, they are religiously affialiated).

Let’s Get Some Facts Straight

The Republican platform also said that students considering colleges should be better-informed about their financial prospects as well as colleges’ degree-completion rates and loan-repayment rates.

The Obama Administration has been working to ensure that students know about just this sort of information. The Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Center seeks to help students and their parents make sound decisions about the costs of college.

Students should also keep in mind that data reveals that the majority of students in default attended for-profit schools and that graduates of for-profit schools “lag behind their peers in earnings and employment.”  Indeed, a report has shown that the “same kind of lending frenzy that created the subprime-mortgage crisis also fueled a dangerous boom in private student loans.”

Some information Republicans have not been so forthcoming about is how many of them have benefited from federal student loans. The Chronicle of Higher Education notes that the fathers of both New Jersey governor Chris Christie and former Senator Rick Santorum went to college on the GI Bill.

Which brings me to another skill a teacher strives to teach, that of doing research and of dealing with facts and information thoughtfully, critically and comprehensively, even when they do not cohere with your own viewpoint. As FactCheck.org, and PolitiFact.com have found, Representative and Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan made a couple of errors in his speech on Wednesday night.

Since you know where I stand politically, I’ll just say it: It seems he could benefit from a refresher course about research methods?

Related Care2 Coverage

8 Reasons The Ryan-Romney Combo Is Bad For Our Children’s Future

Romney: Students Should Get ‘As Much Education As They Can Afford’

Pell Grants At Risk Under Paul Ryan’s Proposals

Photo by Donkey Hotey


S. N.
Susan N5 years ago

I have to say that I have some Repub family members, and they are very insecure and fearful; they tend to lash out at anything that upsets THEIR world (of course it is ONLY theirs), and their attitude is definitely Me, Me, Me, it's all about me, no one else matters. The rest of us tend to stay away from them as much as possible, as they are not very knowledgeable about anything, and it gets tiring dealing with bigotry and hatred all the time.

Laurie Greenberg
Laurie Greenberg5 years ago

The GOP makes no bones about their eagerness to throw proven scientific facts out the window. Why should they be pro-higher-education? They don't WANT people to be able to use higher-level thinking skills or think for themselves.

Ivy Taylor
Yvonne Taylor5 years ago

If the Republicans manage to change our educational system
I have a few questions they should address. WHO will be in charge of the curriculum? Currently for profit and private schools must have students pass State curriculum tests. Does this mean only those with enough money to send their children to school will go, or will they have to be so far in debt that our country will collapse? Will each non public school be able to endorse whatever policies they want on the students? Will religious zealots control the student rules? How unbalanced will our education though out the USA become? Will Science and History become destroyed, like these Tea Baggers would like? This is SCARY!

Mary Carroll
Mary A Carroll5 years ago

This is actually quite a serious issue. Some of the for-profit universities exploit working class white students and students of color by over-promising and overcharging for programs that don't prepare them for jobs that would allow them to pay back their loans...and they're now on a major "surge" to enroll U.S. servicemembers as they return to civilian life and want to get an education. This is a major rip-off...but a lot of the Republicans are taking major campaign funding from those who profit from for-profit educational institutions. THAT's why this plank is in the Republican platform!

Ken W.
Ken W5 years ago

Gee Oh Pee

J.L. A.
j A5 years ago

"That is, if a private sector institution fails, the government can pick up the tab? That’s a scenario that sounds familiar — ever heard of a bank getting a government bailout? — and ill-advised."

The scariest component of all and seems to be a component of a government for the corporations and by the corporations viewpoint...

Edward M.
Edward M5 years ago

That's news to me: I did not think that the GOP even had an education policy in the first place, let alone a higher one.

Storek Sc
Storek Sc5 years ago

Kenneth, either you just got out of bed (typical if you are on welfare) or you totally ignored what the posting subject is. I am questioning journalistic integrity by the author. HELLO!!


Kenneth M.
Kenneth M5 years ago

Steve R and Storek: inquiring minds woud like to know.....are you two deliberately stupid, or does it just come naturally? Storek's initial comment reaches a similar level of cluelessness as the GOP blaming Obama for the shut-down of the car dealership that went out of business long before he took office. Why hold to reality, right?....it is indeed a losing proposition for the party of Teatards.

You two would be an embarressment to any organization other than the cabal of purposefully ignorant, rightwing drama queens that IS today's [R] party.

I have not seen so many lying morons pour syrupy lies and self-agrandizing propaganda over themselves since the G. Bush conventions.

Michael G.
Michael T5 years ago

And of course - "As FactCheck.org, and PolitiFact.com have found" - there are just as many errors, if not more, made by Obama/Biden.

Well no there aren't or you would have posted the headlines in a hundred sources supporting your empty claims.