Out of Place on a Liberal Campus: College Conservatives Hunger for Alternatives
It’s that time of the year again. The next generation of America’s brightest are off to college.
Luka Ladan was like any college freshman: young, optimistic, ready to begin a new chapter of life, when he arrived on campus at Vassar College in southeast New York. But as the semester began, he realized the hard way that he was not like other people.
He was a conservative.
“We were talking about the upcoming election,” he said. “I was in a class talking about Republicans – Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush. Whenever a name was mentioned, one kid would snicker and then five to seven would just laugh at the name,” he later told ABC News.
Luka’s situation was far from isolated, though. The College Republicans tackled the issue with the hashtag #myliberalcampus, asking students to share what it was like to take a conservative stand at the university. Young conservatives everywhere responded.
“Sometimes I’ve questioned my beliefs because so many of my fellow students believe in something different… Am I wrong with believing this? Is there something wrong with me? I remind myself that you should show resolve, but it’s tough.”
For those entering college from a faith background, surveys show that more than half of them will walk away from their faith by the time they leave.
As twenty million young people start college this fall, higher education has not only never been more liberal, it has also never been more expensive.
In the past fifteen years alone, attendance has gone up more than four fold, but the past five years have seen the cost go up by more than seventy percent. The average length of completing a degree has gone from the standard four years, up toward five and six years depending on the state. No longer can students count on finishing by their early twenties and beginning their career with a fresh start. Student loans are at an all-time high, with students averaging in the ball park of 33,000 dollars owed to the federal government.
A federal government, mind you, that is well known for its competence at handling money.
I found myself where so many conservative young people find themselves. With all the costs of time and money, and knowing that it goes to support a brazenly liberal environment, I found myself asking the unthinkable question:
Is it worth it?
Now of course I know as well as anyone that college is no small matter in the modern economy. I have two degrees myself with another one in progress, and I have no doubt that my education has contributed vastly to my still-budding career. The debate need not be about whether to go to college, or even how much education to get.
The debate for my generation is not college versus no college. The debate is spending the best time of our lives at an old-fashioned liberal indoctrination camp versus exploring the dynamic new world of alternative higher education.
The information age has created more options for education than our grandparents could have imagined. From high schoolers trying to get ahead to senior citizens trying to raise their ceilings, online classes, CLEP tests, AP courses, DSST exams, and a whole world of test prep and other specialized websites and publishers are working to make it possible to cut the liberal gate keepers out of earning our degrees.
Take for example, CollegePlus, a Christian company that exists solely to guide students through the process of earning a college degree in less than three years, for the cost of one year of traditional college.
Students in CollegePlus and similar programs have discovered schools such as Liberty University and Thomas Edison State College, which award fully accredited bachelors, masters, and even some doctoral degrees to students who never set foot in a classroom.
My own story, and those of thousands of my generation, started with finding myself in high school, intimidated by how big the whole college question was. I thought about going to school locally, like my parents had. I thought about paying an arm and a leg to attend private school where I could get a conservative environment. I thought about skipping the whole process entirely and going the way of Jobs, Gates, and Zuckerberg to start a business without needing anybody’s piece of paper to validate my self-taught education.
I decided to do none of those.
Instead, I took the initiative in high school with CLEP Tests and DSST exams. I researched institutions that offered accredited degrees for online study. When I graduated from high school, I never went “off to college” because I was already a senior in college.
I started work full time at a job directly relevant to my field (professional conservative activism, actually), continued my online classes, and geared up for law school. Not only was the cost a fraction of what it would have been to attend on campus for four years, I was able to start my doctorate without debt at 19 and continue working.
In the end, conservative young people of my generation have a multitude of options. There is nothing wrong with getting the traditional college experience if that is the best fit.
But for my generation, the path to success will not be our ability to do what has been expected in the past, but our adaptability. Changing our perspective on education as the times require and earning our degrees will pave our path to leadership in the Twenty-First Century.
For all the conservatives going off to college this fall, remember there is education beyond the liberal campus.
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