1 in 4 Students Ruled Out Colleges Due to Local Politics

Students most commonly cited states' reproductive and LGBTQ+ laws as drivers of them avoiding certain locations.
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Jessica Bryant
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Jessica Bryant is a higher education analyst and senior data reporter for BestColleges. She covers higher education trends and data, focusing on issues impacting underserved students. She has a BA in journalism and previously worked with the South Fl...
Published on April 10, 2023
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  • Regardless of their political affiliation, similar percentages of liberal, conservative, and moderate students ruled out colleges because of local politics.
  • Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, and Florida were the states high schools students were most likely to avoid for college.
  • Some of the most cited reasons students ruled out colleges in certain states were due to local reproductive and LGBTQ+ laws.
  • Non-first generation students and LGBTQ+ students were most likely to exclude institutions in some states.

The current political landscape across the U.S. is making some high school students think twice about where they will apply to college, according to new data from Art & Science Group.

The organization surveyed 1,865 high school seniors and found that about 1 in 4 (24%) ruled out postsecondary institutions solely due to the politics, policies, or legal situation in the state where the school is located.

The states that students were most likely to shun due to their politics were Alabama (38%), Texas (29%), Louisiana (21%), and Florida (21%).

Among conservative-leaning students, California and New York were most likely to be selected as states they will avoid for college, while liberal-leaning students were likely to avoid schools in the South and the Midwest.

However, regardless of whether students identified themselves as liberal, conservative, or moderate, similar percentages still reported that they were generally ruling out states due to social policies.

This is far from the first time students have expressed that local politics will influence where they want to study.

In a 2022 BestColleges survey, more than 1 in 3 prospective undergraduate students (39%) reported that the overturning of Roe v. Wade impacted if they will choose to attend college in a particular state. A slightly larger percentage (43%) of current undergrads said the decision impacted if they planned to remain in their current state of residence. And nearly 2 in 3 current students stated that they wanted to live (62%) and work (64%) in a state with legal abortion access.

Art & Science Group found that LGBTQ+ students (32%) and non-first generation students (26%) were most likely to say they ruled out certain states because of local politics. Still, there were few differences across various subgroups of students.

The most commonly cited reasons liberal-leaning students said they excluded institutions in certain states were that the states were generally "too Republican," had too conservative abortion and reproductive rights, had a lack of concern about racial equity, and had too conservative LGBTQ+ laws.

For conservative-leaning students, states being "too Democratic," having too liberal LGBTQ+ laws, being places where conservative voices are quashed, and having too liberal abortion and reproductive rights were the top reasons they avoided colleges in certain states.

Overall, students are taking their own politics into account when considering what schools they might want to attend. And institutions in states with polarizing political climates and legislation will need to take extra steps to continue to attract them.