Ideology and higher education commentary

Leelila Strogov:

There’s a growing aversion to attending college in politically conservative states. What the Chronicle of Higher Education calls the “red-state disadvantage” in higher education is affecting the decisions of both potential students and staff alike.

Anecdotally, I can attest that this is real. In my work coaching college applicants, I have noticed an increased likelihood that applicants in states that vote Democratic in elections won’t apply to universities in states that vote Republican.

One reason is certainly the perceived prestige gap between colleges in blue and red states. A majority of the most highly selective colleges are located in blue states, including Ivy League schools, Stanford University, the University of Chicago, and so on.

Another possible reason is that students may prefer colleges where they believe they will feel more “comfortable,” and moving to a red state can entail more than just being around people with different opinions.

In the wake of Roe v. Wade being overturned, some students may think that going to school in a red state will limit their reproductive freedom. Similarly, queer and trans students may be concerned about their rights in places where laws may offer them fewer protections.

It’s an understandable concern, and all students should seek and apply to schools where they believe they can thrive and feel secure. Still, I strongly urge students from blue states to think seriously about applying to colleges in red states because it boosts their chances of getting into a good school and enjoying long-term career success — and also increases the odds of something else: helping to combat one of the defining social issues of our time, political polarization.