Issues of debate

Students going into debt for low-value degrees
Although academic degrees usually lead to more lucrative careers than community college diplomas, that tendency varies among the different majors. Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce has released a study which essentially claims that colleges are not informing freshmen about the career prospects of various academic majors, thereby training many students for low-paying careers with a substantial risk of unemployment and intractable debt problems. For example, majors in engineering, business administration, health care, computer science and mathematics usually lead to well-paid and secure jobs. On the other hand, majors in psychology and social work, the arts, education, the humanities and liberal arts, communication and journalism result in too many graduates competing for available job opportunities. Even if they do get jobs, they are often vulnerable to layoffs.

For-profit schools
There has been rapid growth in recent years of for-profit schools, of which the University of Phoenix is the largest with an enrollment over 400,000 nationwide. Other large institutions, with numerous branch campuses and online programs include Devry and Kaplan University. Altogether, they enroll 9% of the students. They have aggressively recruited among military veterans, and in 2010 received 36% percent of all the tuition aid paid by the federal government. The University of Phoenix received 88% of its income from federal aid to students; the maximum allowed is 90%. In 2001 the University of Phoenix opened a two-year online program oriented toward lower-income students who receive federal financial aid; in 2010 it had over 200,000 students seeking two-year degrees. Critics have pointed to the heavy dependence on federal loans and grants to students, the low student completion rate, and the inability of the majority of graduates to pay their student loans because they failed to secure high-paying jobs. The University of Phoenix reports that in 2009, 23% of its students completed an associate degree within three years of enrolling, and for bachelor’s degree students, its six-year completion rate was 34%.

The amount of debt that students have after graduation has become an issue of concern, especially given the weak job market after 2008. Some loans are financed by the federal government, but students sometimes obtain private loans (which generally have higher interest rates and start accumulating interest immediately). In 2010, the U.S. Department of Education announced stricter eligibility rules for federal financing of loans to student at for-profit schools, which were experiencing higher default rates.

Political views
Research since the 1970s have consistently found that professors are more liberal and Democratic than the general population. Surveys conducted in the last 10 years show that between 44%-62% faculty self-identify as liberal, while only 9%-18% self-identify as conservative. Conservative self-identification is substantially higher in two-year colleges than other categories of higher education and has been declining overall. Those in natural sciences, engineering, and business were less liberal than those in the social sciences and humanities. A 2005 study found that liberal views had increased compared to the older studies. Only 15% in the survey described themselves as right of center. While the humanities and the social sciences are still the most left leaning, 67% of those in other fields combined described themselves as left of center. Even in business and engineering, liberals outnumber conservatives by a 2:1 ratio. The study also found that women, practicing Christians, and Republicans taught at lower quality schools than would be expected from objectively measured professional accomplishments. Groupthink has been suggested as explaining why liberals are overrepresented.

A 2007 study criticized some recent surveys, such as the above 2005 study, on methodological grounds as well as being motivated by conservative concerns. It also pointed to the influence of conservative think tanks outside academia. In its own survey it found that while conservatives were rare, there was a large centrist group between those self-identifying as liberals or conservatives. More moderate views were more common in younger professors, although also in this age group liberals were several times more common than conservatives. The age group with most liberal professors were the professors who were teenagers or young adults in the radical 1960s. Of all surveyed, 3% identified themselves as Marxists with the highest numbers being in social sciences (17%) and humanities (5%).

A 2011 study disagreed with younger professors being more moderate and instead argued that the average view may shift further left in the future. The study also found that the years of college education had little effect on the political view of undergraduates. There was little evidence that right leaning professors were treated poorly. However, they may have difficulty publishing with a cited study finding that ouf of 494 books published by Harvard University Press only eight were conservative or classical liberal in orientation. Regarding the cause of the liberal overrepresentation, it found that conservative students preferred to major in fields leading to immediate employment, such as hotel management or accounting, rather than further studies. Self-selection has also been suggested by others as the main explanation.

In one study the researchers sent out e-mails to graduate studies directors at top ranked departments. They claimed to be an undergraduate asking for guidance regarding if this was a suitable department. The e-mails differed regarding which presidential campaign the undergraduate had worked for. There was no statical difference in the replies. On the other hand, a survey of sociology professors found that one quarter stated that they would be more likely to vote for hiring a declared Democrat and less likely to vote for hiring a declared Republican. Around 40% stated that they would be less likely to vote for hiring an Evangelical or a member of the National Rifle Association. Another survey found a similar situation for humanities and other social sciences professors.

There are both older and more recent (such as The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America) right-wing criticisms regarding the political views of the academia and the effects of these as well as counter-criticisms against these views.

A 2007 poll found that 58% of Americans thought that college professors' political bias was a "serious problem". This varied depending on the political views of those asked. 91% of "very conservative" adults agreed compared with only 3% of liberals.