Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy (PhD)

Degree Level



Public Policy


Michael T. Miller

Committee Member

Valerie Hunt

Second Committee Member

Geoboo Song


college, higher education, funding, partisanship


Over several decades, a greater share of the expense of earning a college degree has shifted to students and their families as appropriations to public institutions of higher education have declined as a percentage of the overall cost to educate a student. Tuition has greatly outpaced inflation during this period, while inflation-adjusted household income has remained relatively flat. Despite all the benefits that accrue to both the college graduate and society as a whole, for the less affluent, a college education is becoming increasingly difficult to attain. Many decide the financial barriers are simply too great and elect not to pursue a degree. Political partisanship influences spending on higher education at the state level; Republican lawmakers, in general, are less generous toward higher education than are Democrats. This study attempted to understand whether similar correlations exist between political preferences and support for higher education among adults who may influence policymaking through their voting behavior. A survey was administered to a non-random, convenience sample of adults in four states. Analysis of the data show that overall, liberal respondents who favor the Democratic party and preferred Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election are generally more supportive of higher education than are conservatives who support Donald Trump and the Republican party. Certain key issues, such as loan forgiveness or in-state tuition for undocumented students, were statistically correlated with level of support for higher education while other issues were not. Demographic factors such as age and hometown population also correlated with level of support. Contrary to expectations, significant differences were not seen between "red" states and "blue" states. Higher education advocates who wish to make a college education more accessible will need to craft messages that can influence voters across the political divide, especially those who remain distrustful of academia.