Elise Stefanik, a Harvard graduate, has become a high-profile figure in the Republican Party’s charge against elite universities, which the GOP claims promote liberal ideology in classrooms and shut out conservative points of view.
Stefanik, a New York congresswoman, has proposed a bill that would require all colleges and universities to report their endowments, tuition and fees, along with information about faculty job security and pay and student demographics and enrollment. The bill, known as the Higher Education Accountability Act, passed a House vote last month.
Stefanik has defended the bill as a way to address rising tuition costs and alleged anti-conservative bias in academia, contending that taxpayers should know how universities use public funds. Democrats have called the bill irrelevant and unnecessary for schools that already are subject to financial and administrative oversight.
The measure was part of a larger campaign by the party to challenge higher education and the influence of liberal academics. President Donald Trump has accused universities of “indoctrinating” students with “far-left” ideology and has proposed cutting federal funding to institutions that fail to protect free speech or don’t support certain conservative views.
In a statement, Stefanik accused higher education of “rampant political correctness” and argued the bill “will help ensure that our institutions of higher education are held accountable for how they spend taxpayer dollars.”
Stefanik has been an outspoken critic of higher education, and her bill has been criticized by faculty and college-related groups who believe it threatens the independent judgment of professors and administrators. Supporters say the bill would get universities to pay more attention to how much they are spending and provide a better understanding of what students are learning in academia.
The bill still faces long odds in the Senate, but Stefanik’s own conservative credentials have made her a face of the GOP’s push to challenge higher education.