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Rick Santorum says that 62 percent of people who go to college lose their “faith commitment” there. Some have questioned those statistics, which come from a 2007 report that found even greater decline among those who don’t attend college. I do not know how one measures such things, but I think it inevitable that questioning of childhood beliefs should take place at various stages of adolescence. This does not happen in junior year or senior year on campus. It is part of a long process called growing up.
From coast to coast, great public universities are under attack as expensive luxuries that the nation can no longer afford to support. Governors and state legislators are withdrawing state funds from universities that they continue to regulate. Critics outside and inside the academy denounce professors for doing too much research, teaching too few students, receiving too much pay and offering unwelcome expertise on ideas ranging from climate change to the causes of the Civil War. Meanwhile tuition and other costs continue to rise, and promising students from poor families are reluctant to commit themselves to expensive institutions. In this climate of crisis, ideologues with simple, radical ideas about how to lower costs will attract an audience eager for a solution, especially one that does not include the words “taxes” or “public responsibility.”