After the dust settled from the 2008 presidential election, one headline permeated through the rest: young voters came out in historic numbers for the Democrat, then-Senator Barack Obama. Pundits at the time said that the youth would vote solidly Democratic for the next fifty years. They were wrong. The college student vote is now up for grabs.
As Barack Obama and Mitt Romney prepare for the presidential debates, here’s some advice for winning the college student vote: focus on jobs, healthcare, and education. The candidate who wins these three issues will not only earn my vote, but will win the battle for the hearts and minds of college students across the country.
The most obvious selling point for college students is jobs. While no candidate is against creating jobs, college students recognize that—in just a short time—we will be entering the work force. Whichever candidate can convince my generation that they will work to create an economy built to last and to usher in a new era of economic growth will certainly be appealing.
Every college student has heard a middle-aged relative tell pass on their sympathies, for the student will soon be looking for a job. Students now have seen their friends go on to graduate, just to become a full-time job seeker. This scenario is frightening for students; therefore, any candidate that hopes to break through with this generation will have to channel their frustrations and promise to do more to grow the economy.
Second, healthcare is a major issue for college students. President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (derisively referred to as ObamaCare) included a landmark provision that allows young adults to be covered by their parents’ insurance until they are 26. Upon graduation, the focus is no longer on getting a job with benefits or scraping up enough money to afford a minimum-coverage health insurance policy. Now the choice is no longer between taking a job and seeking a graduate’s degree. Students and young adults under this plan can take a low-paying but rewarding job in their community, volunteer, or now choose between the job offer they love without benefits and the one they don’t with insurance coverage.
Mitt Romney and Republicans have pledged to take steps towards repealing this very legislation; therefore, as President Obama campaigns on this accomplishment, Governor Romney will have to convince college students like me that he understands the challenge we face with healthcare and that, as President, he will not repeal the very statute that allows me to be insured through my parents.
The third—and arguable most important—issue to winning over college students’ votes is education funding itself. College students’ ability to afford their tuition is intrinsically tied with the government. Programs like Stafford Loans, Pell Grants, and Federal Work Study are incredibly important for college students barely scraping by. College students worked hard through high school to get accepted, fight to maintaintheir grades, and most still find time to work a job on the side to help pay their way.
Page 2 of 2 - The candidate who can convince students that they will work to keep college affordable (and federal student aid programs solvent) will run away with the student vote. Nearly every college student has a federally administered loan of some sort, making each a stakeholder in candidate’s platforms on education.
These are policy issues that may slip below the radar. These are issues that may be easily glossed over by campaigns. But as debates approach and the polls keep narrowing, watch for the campaigns to push for students’ votes. College students understand their civic duty and will come out in November.
But if a candidate really wants to win the college vote in 2012, they will focus on the three fundamental issues: jobs, healthcare, and education. As November gets closer, students will certainly be watching; the question is: will Governor Romney and President Obama speak to us? As the election gets close, I suspect they will.
Derrick Magnotta is a junior at Juniata College from Tafton, Pa. He is a 2010 graduate of Wallenpaupack Area High School.