Cuts in state higher-education funding have led public colleges and universities to sharply raise tuition and fees, which in turn has helped push student debt to more than $1.5 trillion and put college out of reach for millions. As costs have risen, higher education has increasingly become an ideological battleground, with liberals charging that government is not doing enough to help young people attain a degree and conservatives arguing that colleges should do more to provide students with practical job skills. Against that backdrop are bitter disagreements over free-speech rights on campus and disputes over college admission standards. The outcome of some of the controversies hinges on the ballot box, with some liberal politicians calling for “free” taxpayer-funded tuition and conservatives demanding that schools focus ...

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