Student voters appear to have played a pivotal role in several key wins in this year’s US election, giving them hope for improved accessibility and fairness in a political environment that generally seems unlikely to produce major policy breakthroughs. .
The election saw Republicans regain control of the House of Representatives from Democrats, hardening the path for legislative progress. Still, experts said some trade-offs were possible, particularly on tuition, helped by signs that young Americans and students in particular are largely maintaining their higher Trump-era voting rates.
“They’ve definitely come out and shown they’re a force to be reckoned with,” Jared Bass, senior director of higher education at the Center for American Progress, a think tank, said of young voters. “It was read loud and clear, certainly in liberal and conservative circles.”
Areas where Democrats and Republicans could find common ground, Bass said, include lower loan costs for graduate students, new grants for students in short-term college programs , improved institutional performance data and new funding for job-focused training at community colleges.
“While there won’t be a bonanza of legislative opportunities, that doesn’t mean there still won’t be opportunities worth considering,” he said.
The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University estimated that 27% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 voted in this round, just behind the record of 31% set in 2018 for a midterm survey. Those voters overwhelmingly favored the Democrats, 62% to 35%, making it a vital part of the national result in which Democrats picked up the usually big midterm victory won by the party that doesn’t control the White House. .
Data from the center showed youth voting was particularly critical in several key close races, including contests for the Senate in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Nevada, and in the gubernatorial races in Wisconsin and Arizona.
In one of the most important election results for higher education, voters in Arizona narrowly approved granting undocumented students the right to tuition fees in the state.
In their race for governor, Arizona voters also narrowly rejected Kari Lake, a Republican openly hostile to Arizona State University and its president, Michael Crow, a leading reformer in American higher education. whom she castigated as being excessively tolerant of liberal ideas.
But other caustic critics of higher education and its supposed ideological biases have won races, including Ron DeSantis, a highly anticipated 2024 US presidential candidate, in his run for re-election as Governor in Florida.
The Democrats held control of the Senate nonetheless, leaving Bernie Sanders – a two-time US presidential candidate and a vocal proponent of free college – as the likely next chair of its education committee.
Republicans will have relatively little power in Washington with just control of the House, although it gives them sweeping investigative powers that they intend to use stimulus programs promoting student debt relief and racial and gender equity in higher education. Their monitoring is also expected to focus on China, which could dampen hopes on US campuses of a recovery in the sharply declining number of Chinese students. Their control of the House could also jeopardize some promised major increases in federal spending on scientific research, although no major cuts are expected.