More than three-quarters of students want to discuss “divisive topics” in the classroom, survey

Of this cohort, just over three-quarters say they would prefer to attend a college that didn't restrict discussion on such topics.

Amid a higher education environment that’s becoming increasingly political, so are the students. The 76% of students who say it’s important that they be allowed to discuss race, gender and other “divisive topics” in classrooms, according to a recent survey by Gallup and Lumina Foundation, aligns with the spate of bills in GOP-led states against diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

Of the 76%, just over three-quarters say they would prefer to attend a college that didn’t restrict discussion on such topics. While this issue is highly cut down party lines, 70% of Republicans considering enrolling in an associate or bachelor’s degree program viewed this as at least somewhat important to where they choose to go to attend college. Across race, age and party affiliation, Democrats were the most likely to weigh this as an important metric.

The survey reached roughly 14,000 U.S. adults without a college degree to discover the most influential factors in a prospective college student’s decision-making. Legislative considerations were among the highest, only behind those related to cost, flexibility, and quality of education. Among the U.S. adults surveyed, nearly 7,000 were adults considering or currently pursuing a two- or four-year degree.

As much weight as students gave to their freedom of speech and debate, the topic of gun control gained the most traction; 84% said they prefer campuses that restrict firearms, and 80% said such policies are at least somewhat important in their college choices. One data point suggests why gun control laws are so influential to where students decide to attend college: 38% of enrolled students who attend some classes in person say they worry “a great deal” or “a fair amount” about gun violence on campus.

Falling behind freedom of speech and gun control were states’ stances on reproductive rights. Eight in 10 students prefer states with fewer restrictions on reproductive healthcare. Younger female applicants who are Black, Hispanic and Latinx were particularly prone to take this stance. The results from this survey weigh closely to reports that show medical students are increasingly choosing to rule out states with abortion bans, according to The Post and Courier.

“By fostering environments prioritizing safety, inclusivity, and academic freedoms, we can give all students opportunities to pursue their educational aspirations,” wrote Courtney Brown, vice president of impact and planning for the Lumina Foundation. “Only then can we truly harness the full potential of the power of learning—including the right to learn without fearing for our lives.”

More from UB: 11 tips to boost your pool of online students in 2024

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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