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The New College Try

A letter from the editor of our March 2018 issue.

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What is the role of higher education in America? At a time when our nation’s student debt crisis and debates about the value of four-year liberal arts degrees are garnering headlines, it’s a question that’s not just on the minds of parents and college-age kids. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that some universities are responding to that uncertainty by expanding beyond their traditional functions—teaching critical thinking skills and preparing students for careers—to delve into arenas like controversial social issues and politics. In “Conservative U,” 5280 senior staff writer Robert Sanchez profiles Lakewood’s Colorado Christian University, a small but rapidly growing private institution with big ambitions: “This school really wants to be one of the last universities in America that can save America,” a CCU professor says in Sanchez’s feature. I’m sure there’s plenty of discussion to be had about whether the United States needs to be saved and whether an obscure parochial school and its affiliated right-wing think tank, the Centennial Institute, should be the savior. What is certain, however, is that CCU and its on-campus advocacy organization intend to influence the conversation—through lobbying efforts, boycotts of movies and music, op-eds condemning public officials, inflammatory press releases, and other tactics—surrounding issues such as abortion, legal marijuana, and gay marriage in Colorado for years to come. As more traditional colleges are increasingly portrayed as institutions by, of, and for liberals, CCU aims to provide something very different. But can CCU continue to grow and, in fact, affect public policy and statewide discourse in any meaningful way? That remains to be seen.

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