WSPN’s Katya Luzarraga, Penelope Biddle and Reva Datar discuss the implications of WHS students considering college in states with abortion bans. (Credit: Katya Luzarraga)
WSPN’s Katya Luzarraga, Penelope Biddle and Reva Datar discuss the implications of WHS students considering college in states with abortion bans.

Credit: Katya Luzarraga

Opinion: The political reality of college in America

February 9, 2023

The political situation of America is more polarized than it has been in decades. In recent years, candidates are being elected to office with more politically extreme opinions than the average voter. As a result, laws have been proposed, some even passed, by the extreme few. These laws are ‘backwards’ and out of touch with today’s culture.

These facts can fall to the back of students’ minds while touring colleges. Inside a campus, it’s easy for students to feel untouchable in respect to these policies. The protective political bubble students experience while at college is not all-encompassing. College students are not exempt from the realities of state and federal law.

When planning your future, don’t be naive. Don’t think because of higher education that you’re higher than the law. It is essential to remember that laws differ from state to state. When you send in your college application, you might be thinking about the courses you’ll take or the education you’ll get, not about the laws that threaten you or your freedoms.

For students who are making the perceptive decision to consider political implications when looking towards their future, they might see the grim reality of their limited options. The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade may cause a drop in college enrollment, specifically among women or those with the capacity for pregnancy, in anti-abortion states.

Sexual assault is unfortunately common on college campuses. Horrifying incidents of rape occur more frequently than we would like to admit. The idea of a resulting pregnancy, one that is forced by law to remain, only adds cruelty. The government should be working to protect women in these situations, not forcing them to deliver a baby.

However, several state governments in America have made their anti-abortion stance clear, even when those seeking an abortion are victims of rape or incest. Now, students must be aware of the legal realities and keep the terrifying hypothetical situations in mind when applying to college.

Most college students don’t have the financial means to get an abortion or travel to a location where they could legally and safely receive an abortion. For these colleges located in anti-abortion states, providing students with whatever assistance they can means answering the crucial question of what college campuses are legally allowed to do in lieu of Roe v. Wade being overturned.

After all, there are many states where students could be prosecuted for receiving an abortion. The only other perceivable option for students faced with an unwanted pregnancy is getting an illegal abortion that is under-resourced, which puts a woman’s health at further risk. The list of variables is endless. Despite the efforts of colleges to provide students with resources, some students might hesitate before attending college in states with conservative politics.

We surveyed 57 Wayland High School students on their top choice colleges. The majority of schools mentioned were in Massachusetts and states with similar laws and political views. Out of the 57 students surveyed, 54.4% agreed with the fact that new, controversial state policies will affect where they apply to school. Worries about reproductive rights were at the top of the college-politics iceberg. Some students expressed concern about the political polarization in areas as a whole. Others mentioned how such extreme and aggressive expression of racist and anti-LGBTQ+ ideas would make them feel unsafe on their campuses.

Explore the map below by clicking on the dropped pins to see what students put as their top schools and their concerns. View the key for more information and sources.

Map key (Credit to: Penelope Biddle)

Along with the restrictive abortion laws, legal policies in conservative states would most affect marginalized groups, especially in universities that are attempting to diversify their student population. In recent years, Republicans have been proposing laws that harm people of color and the LGBTQ+ community and diminish decades of societal progress. Many of these resolutions stand to pass. Notably, the furthering of conservative politician’s political agendas have happened through legislature targeted towards schools at both the K-12 and collegiate levels.

Lawmakers in Republican states have passed laws banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in schools. These policies have and will continue to affect higher education as well as public K-12. In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis has been working to pass the Stop Woke Law. As if DeSantis’ efforts to damage education in Florida aren’t enough, his influence will now reach nationwide.

Politicians are always trying to diminish our political power, so we need to recognize that we have power and we have rights.

— Katya Luzarraga

Recently, the College Board released the curriculum for the highly anticipated Advanced Placement (AP) African American Studies course. The curriculum has been revised to appease conservatives, who were angered after seeing a leaked draft. The course curriculum now does not address topics focused on Black history and oppression.

Laws similar to some of the ones DeSantis pushed for, which indirectly affect college students, can do some serious damage in just four years.

Seeing all of this, it’s easy to understand why, beyond just the financial advantage, a high school graduate might want to stay in-state for college, especially if that state is Massachusetts. However, if you do end up attending college in a state where the laws worry you, there are a few things you can do.

First, know your rights and exercise them. You may be discouraged and misled by the political views that surround you, but you could have more rights than you’re being led to believe.

Politicians are always trying to diminish our political power, so we need to recognize the power and rights we have. As well as knowing your rights, know your privileges. If you are a college student in a state with conservative political views, the school may have resources available to protect you from harmful policies.

Also, remember you can register to vote in the state where you attend college. If you feel that the laws in your college state are unjust, take action to change them. Your vote can make a difference in your school’s state, so make sure you register and participate in elections.

When you submit your college application, you won’t be thinking that, one day, you could be out on the streets of your college town, protesting to defend your body, who you love or even your life. Be active in your community and protect yourself and others in every way you can from the laws that will inevitably affect you.

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