University Politics

Creating a cohesive education plan would help candidates gain youth vote

President Barack Obama was too passive in his responses, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney lacked specifics in his plans, and minutes into it, the moderator had lost control. These are just several of the major criticisms arising from last week’s presidential debate.

But one critique not as highly touted was the lack of discussion concerning higher education and lowering the cost of tuition.

Last week’s debate kicked off the first of three for the two major party presidential candidates, and though the candidates touched on education, no plans of making it more affordable were clearly — if at all — presented. Oct. 16 and Oct. 22 mark the next two dates the opponents will have the opportunity to present their views to the public via a national broadcast. Vice presidential candidates Joe Biden, the current VP, and Paul Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin, will face off Thursday at 9 p.m.

With collectively three debates left, the Democrats and Republicans still have the opportunity to appeal to the college-aged demographic, their parents and those who will be affected by higher education costs in the future.

With such a close race, this is an issue the candidates should care about and take the opportunity to present at a debate. Why? Because right now neither candidate is attracting the youngest demographic of voters, citizens aged 18 to 24, like Obama did in the 2008 presidential race.

A coherent, feasible plan to make attending an institution of higher education possible or less of a financial burden could draw more voters to the polls on Election Day. This is a key issue for getting young people to cast a ballot, as this demographic is notoriously the least likely to take part in the election.

College students often exhibit apathy toward both national and local politics because, though issues like finding a job and the state of the economy after college are a concern, college-aged voters are often detached from aspects the rest of the voting-aged citizenry deem important, like taxes and the housing market. Tuition costs, however, affect many young Americans right now, and often quite immensely.

The first debate between Obama and Romney generated huge amounts of analysis by national media outlets and pollsters about how it affected the opinions of the citizenry. Many polls showed gains for Romney while others declared Obama still had a slight lead. Regardless of which candidate was favored, polls showed voters were tuning in and, for many, what the candidates presented in the debate mattered.

Debating plans for making a higher education more affordable through means such as government programs or grants to larger quantities of students would be positive for both parties.

For Democrats, who are known for sustaining a base of the highly educated, further efforts to make higher education more affordable and therefore create a more educated population could strengthen their internal support while also attracting new supporters — namely young people — on this same principle.

A focus on education and helping more of the citizenry to obtain a degree would be beneficial for Republicans as well. If a Republican-generated concept was executed more effectively than the Democratic pitch, young voters leaning Democratic may be pulled away from the party to join the Republicans on this premise.

Partisan issues aside, discussions need to take place in Washington regarding making tuition affordable for more students, as well as further advancing the higher education systems. Creating a more competitive citizenry on the world stage will allow for a more successful United States.

Rachael Barillari is a junior political science and Middle Eastern studies major. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at



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