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The average college student graduates with nearly $30,000 in debt.
But if a stunning new poll is anything to go by, students shell out all those tuition dollars just to finish remarkably misinformed.
North Dakota State University researchers polled students from 131 colleges and universities — and the results are quite something.
For one, college students are remarkably pessimistic about American and world history, to the point of complete historical illiteracy.
The survey finds nearly 60% of students think life in America has gotten worse or stayed the same over the last 50 years.
Only 41% correctly understand it’s overall gotten better over the last five decades.
And it’s not a partisan phenomenon: This delusional belief was shared roughly equally among liberal-leaning, conservative-leaning and independent-leaning students.
Just how inaccurate this perception is becomes clear when you consider the exact question pollsters asked: “Based on what you have learned in college so far, do you think that life in the United States has generally been getting better or worse over the last 50 years (considering issues such as life expectancy, income per person, and level of education)?”
Let’s look at those metrics.
In 1973, 50 years ago, US life expectancy was 71.4 years, per the World Bank. In 2020, it was 77.3 years.
By any objective measure, that’s a huge improvement.
In the same vein, average income per person has significantly improved since 1973.
To accurately compare across time and account for inflation, we can look at income with all figures adjusted to reflect, say, 2015 dollars.
When we do that, we see income per person in America rose from $28,114 to $66,866 over the last 50 years.
Yep — it’s more than doubled.
And that’s to say nothing of the rapid social progress and change that’s occurred over the last five decades, which you’d think “woke” college students wouldn’t be so quick to discount.
America has, for example, made tremendous progress toward racial acceptance since 1973.
Back then, according to Gallup, only 29% of Americans approved of interracial marriage — now, 94% do.
(It’s kind of hilarious to think of the prototypical white woke college student trying to explain to an elderly African American just how much worse America has gotten over the last five decades.)
It’s not just race where we’ve seen tremendous progress either. Heck, as Forbes reports, many women couldn’t even get credit cards in their own name in 1973.
And gay people faced anti-sodomy laws on the books in many states that literally criminalized their lifestyle — gay marriage was still a pipe dream.
That’s all radically changed.
Are woke college students really unaware of this basic history?
In a funny twist, 77% of students told pollsters they believe their college education is helping them develop “a more accurate view of the United States.”
So much for that, huh?
None of this is to say things have exclusively improved since the ’70s or there are no problems today.
But to earnestly believe that America is worse off today than in 1973 requires an astounding level of economic and historical ignorance.
That ignorance actually gets worse.
Among those students who somehow believe the United States has gotten worse over the last 50 years, a majority think this imagined lack of progress has occurred because we don’t have “enough government programs to make sure resources are used wisely.”
This belief betrays a remarkable unfamiliarity with our economic system.
Even back in 1970, we were dedicating so much to government programs that it amounted to 32.3% of our economy, per the International Monetary Fund.
By 2021, that figure had risen to 42.36%.
That’s right: More than 40% of our resources are funneled into government programs — but somehow, the problem is that we don’t have enough government programs.
So does it really seem like students are actually developing “a more accurate view of the United States” in college these days?
The price of university is already outrageously high.
But the status quo becomes all the more intolerable when you realize Americans are paying tens upon tens of thousands of our hard-earned dollars — only for students to become more ignorant about our country.
Brad Polumbo is an independent journalist and co-founder of BASED Politics.