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Electoral accountability for rising tuition in the US: evidence from a survey experiment and observational data

Mukasheva, Zhamilya ORCID: 0000-0002-4562-6272, Collignon, Sofia and Hackett, Ursula (2023) Electoral accountability for rising tuition in the US: evidence from a survey experiment and observational data. The Journal of Higher Education. ISSN 0022-1546

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Identification Number: 10.1080/00221546.2023.2266354


Tuition levels in the US have been rising at an above-the-inflation pace, leading to spiraling student debt levels and negative effects on students’ well-being. While student outcomes of rising tuition are well known, the political reasons behind the decisions of policy makers to contain tuition increases or not remain poorly understood. In this article, we focus on electoral accountability that policy makers face for rising tuition by examining voters’ reactions. Using a survey experiment with a sample of US adults (N = 1040), we show that clarity of responsibility is an important factor affecting reactions to rising tuition levels. When voters are informed about the role of the government in tuition setting, they are more likely to vote out policy makers responsible for cuts in funding. We show a similar relationship in observational data using a nationally representative survey from Cooperative Congressional Election Study. State governors’ approval is lower in states where tuition levels increased recently, and the relationship is moderated by the visibility of government in tuition-setting. By demonstrating that policy makers face repercussions for rising tuition but are able to avoid blame in certain conditions, we contribute to scholarly understanding of preferences of policy makers in higher education.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 The Author(s)
Divisions: School of Public Policy
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Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
Date Deposited: 03 Nov 2023 11:48
Last Modified: 26 May 2024 07:42

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