Elise Stefanik has become the face of the Republican Party’s charge against elitist universities.
The Harvard graduate and two-term representative from New York’s 21st Congressional District is on the front lines of the party’s effort to dramatically alter higher education through funding cuts and other sweeping changes. As of late April, she has lodged two bills that seek to eliminate the use of elite universities’ endowments for non-academic activities and to expand access to higher education for “underserved” Americans.
The move marks a dramatic shift for the GOP, which had traditionally advocated for massive public investments in elite universities. Stefanik’s push to reduce the role of schools like Harvard and Yale is indicative of the new Republican attitude: that those universities are too privileged and do not adequately serve low-income students and minorities.
In addition to her proposed legislation, Stefanik is pushing for more financial transparency for universities, arguing that they should be accountable for how they use their vast endowments. She also believes universities should focus more on the needs of lower-income students and expand their capital to serve rural and minority populations.
Stefanik isn’t the only advocate for these reforms. President Trump has also made similar calls to scale back endowments and revise how universities accept applicants. The White House’s 2020 budget, for instance, proposes the elimination of the approximately $14 billion in subsidies for higher education institutions with large endowments.
Some universities, such as Princeton and Harvard, have pushed back against these reforms, arguing that endowments are important to providing access to low-income students and funding research and educational activities.
Overall, however, Stefanik’s efforts have been embraced by much of the Republican Party, which is looking to fundamentally alter the way universities operate in the US. If successful, this could have a profoundly impact on the future of higher education in the US — only time will tell.