Warren Wilson College in North Carolina is actively trying to recruit students with conservative views after a survey found that only 23 percent of its students have had discussions “often” or “very often” with people of different political views.
Like most colleges with liberal reputations, the Swannanoa, N.C. based college is struggling to attract conservatives despite its location in a conservative region of the state. Its new president, Lynn M. Morton, is hoping to change that. She believes that good colleges shouldn’t appeal to just “a sliver” of the population and that those with conservative perspectives should be viewed as an asset to ideological diversity.
Behind the rhetoric, the college is also fighting a numbers game. Recently, only 20 percent of those who visited the campus have enrolled, compared to 30 percent for comparable institutions.
Since the school can’t exactly gauge the political leanings of its prospective students through application questions, Morton is using other means to attract these students. She is having public discussions on the issue and is encouraging faculty to address how to incorporate diversity of thought into their classes. The college is also reaching out to rural areas surrounding the campus.
As Inside Higher Ed notes, Warren Wilson College’s efforts have faced resistance, particularly from left-leaning alumni who take pride in the school’s progressive reputation. This isn’t stopping Morton from combatting what she sees as a major problem for the institution, however.
This might be the beginning of a trend; another survey reported that 9 percent of public colleges and 8 percent of private colleges were expanding their recruitment of conservative students. This could be a result of the 2016 election, which demonstrated that there are far more conservative young people than academia had previously realized, meaning that this is not a demographic they can simply ignore. It could also be that parents (who might be paying the tab), are blocking their children from attending colleges that they view as too liberal.
Generation Z, which is rumored to be the most conservative generation since World War II, has come of age, and is likely already skeptical of the value of a four-year degree after watching millennials struggle with unemployment and student debt. If colleges and universities, particularly smaller ones, want to maintain their popularity and prestige, they cannot continue to snub this huge demographic.