Elon Musk Wants to Take Back America’s Colleges

Written by Nate Hochman

What’s happening: Today’s conservative education activists are working towards an ambitious goal: transform American academia by either hostile takeovers of universities or by building new ones.

Two visions: One approach focuses on conquering pre-existing institutions, either by legislative intervention or hostile takeovers of the college administration. Another is aimed at building new institutions, which would serve as an alternative higher education system.

From the inside: Activists like Chris Rufo are leading a growing number of red states to ban or defund DEI in public higher education. (Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt recently signed an executive order to that effect).

  • Takeover: Republican legislatures have also sought to defund radical university departments, and — in the case of Florida’s New College — even completely take control of wayward colleges.

  • Workarounds: There are lingering concerns about left-wing colleges evading DEI bans. Without full-scale regime change, radical administrators often find ways to continue to push their ideological project.

From the outside: A cohort of right-leaning academics, donors, and activists are seeking to build new universities from scratch. Notable examples include Ralston College in Savannah, Georgia; the University of Austin in Austin, Texas; and most recently, another new university in Austin, funded by a $100 million pledge from Elon Musk.

  • Not easy: Both Ralston and the University of Austin have been marred by accusations of mismanagement, high-profile firings and resignations, and ongoing struggles to achieve accreditation.

Moving forward: The most successful conservative college, Hillsdale, was founded back in 1884 — but its transformation into a self-consciously conservative institution was the result of more recent efforts. A viable conservative reform agenda will probably involve some mix of the two approaches, applying pressure to the system from both within and without.

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