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The Politics of College Choice: How Students’ Political Views Influence Where They Enroll

Political climate is now a significant factor in students’ college selection process. In this nationwide study of high school juniors and seniors, we explore students’ concerns about campus and state politics, ways they think it could influence their college experience, and how their concerns shape where they plan to attend college.

Key Findings:

  • Political Polarization: While most students identify as moderate, white students are more politically polarized than their non-white peers.
  • Impact on College Decisions: When considered alongside other factors like cost, academic quality, and location, political concerns account for about 20% of the decision-making process. One in four students has concerns about attending college in a specific state based on its politics. What state are students most concerned about? Texas. 50% of liberal students and 18% of moderate students indicate concerns about the state’s political climate.
  • Top Concerns: Students’ top three concerns about attending college in a state where the political climate differs from their own views are fear of harassment, fear of not belonging, and concerns for their personal safety. 
  • Parental Influence: Conservative students are significantly more likely to say their parents’ political views will influence where they attend college than their moderate or liberal peers.
  • Free Speech and Campus Neutrality: 77% of college-bound high school students support free speech on campus, even if it offends others, and 73% believe colleges should remain neutral on political issues.

Download the Report