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The destruction of public higher education in red states

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DeSantis is getting the most attention right now, but he didn’t invent reactionary bust-outs of public universities, and he definitely won’t be the last:

The February meeting of the North Idaho College board of trustees was, by recent standards, civilized.

There were no shoving matches or speeches from far-right podcasters. Nobody pulled the fire alarm. The parade of community members who, under the wary eye of campus security officers, took turns at the microphone mostly kept their voices below shouting volume, until an hour or so before midnight, when a woman cried “Shame on you!” and stormed out of the room.

Mostly, people seemed stunned that it had actually come to this.

For most of the past two years, the college’s governing board has been a volatile experiment in turning grievances into governance. Trustees backed by the county Republican Party hold a majority on the board. They have denounced liberal “indoctrination” by the college faculty and vowed to bring the school administration’s “deep state” to heel and “Make N.I.C. Great Again.”

The injection of such sweeping political aims into the routine administration of a community college of 4,600 students, one better known locally for its technical training programs than the politics of its faculty, has devolved into a full-blown crisis. The school has faced lawsuits from two of the five presidents it has had since the start of the previous school year. A district court judge ordered one of those presidents reinstated on Friday in a ruling that castigated the trustees for “steering N.I.C. toward an iceberg.” The college has lost professors and staff and had its debt downgraded by Moody’s, which cited the school’s “significant governance and management dysfunction.”

The troubles culminated last month in a letter from the regional higher education commission, which warned that the 90-year-old college could be stripped of its accreditation if changes were not made in a matter of weeks — an effective threat of closure and a potential catastrophe for Coeur d’Alene, a town of 56,000 in the Idaho Panhandle. The college is the sixth-largest employer in Kootenai County and a source of skilled labor for much of the local economy.

Threatening the school’s accreditation by putting monumentally incompetent dipshits whose only credentials are being MAGA Republicans in charge of the school’s board is creating an increasingly familiar clash between local Republican businessmen, who would prefer the leopards not eat this particular face, which after all is training their employees, with other Republican elites and Republican voters:

“As a businessperson here, it’s heartbreaking to me to be standing on the brink of the loss of this institution,” said Eve Knudtsen, the owner of a Chevrolet dealership in the neighboring town of Post Falls. Ms. Knudtsen, a Republican, attended N.I.C., as have both of her daughters, and she said a third of the technicians hired by her dealership came out of the school.

[…]

The threat of losing accreditation — which would leave the school ineligible for federal financial aid and students’ credits worthless if they transfer — has drawn local business leaders off the sidelines.

At the meeting, Greg Green, a telecom entrepreneur and philanthropist, vowed to fund challenges to the committee-backed bloc of trustees in the next election, in particular Mr. Banducci. “I had no clue how bad things were,” said Mr. Green, a Republican.

But the bloc has withstood one such challenge already.

I suspect the local gentry is about to discover that they’ve lost control over the monster they created, and in the end where are they going to go? They’re still aching for that upper-class tax cut.

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