It has always been incredibly difficult to motivate younger generations to go to the polls. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, less than half of eligible young adult voters turn out for the presidential election, and fewer than 12 percent of younger generations even know the midterms exist. Research suggests several reasons young people avoid the polls, ranging from lack of education and apathy to disappointment and disgust with the current political system.
It is critical to the success of our democracy that every voter exercises their right ― especially during this election, when there is so much at stake. To be precise, here are five real issues affecting college students around the nation:
More than 70 percent of American students take out loans to afford higher education, which is notably atypical. Most developed nations provide free (or nearly free) tuition to universities, and some governments give students stipends for housing and supplies. Meanwhile, the total amount of American student debt exceeds $1.2 trillion, and as higher ed.’s tuitions and fees around the country continue to increase, that mountain of debt will only grow. Armed with their votes, college students can help end the student loan crisis.
Here are the current platforms of democratic and republican frontrunners:
- Hilary Clinton advocates refinancing and income-based payments to make repaying loans easier.
- Ted Cruz favors legislation that caps interest rates for life.
- Bernie Sanders has a strong history of advocacy for college affordability, and he promotes public college courses tuition-free.
- Donald Trump supports student loan forgiveness programs, lamenting the idea of profiting off student debt.
As if the prospect of living under triple-digit debt weren’t enough, college grads continue to struggle to find reliable employment. The job market is saturated, and many degree-holders begin their post-college lives in part-time positions unbefitting of their level of education. Elected officials design the policies that encourage the creation of jobs for every generation, so college students with a thought for the future should care about casting a vote.
Here are what the candidates say about jobs:
- Clinton campaigns for raising federal minimum wage, providing restrictions on outsourcing, and increasing the power of unions, among many other unemployment policies.
- Cruz suggests abolishing unemployment benefits, which he believes is the cause of the unemployment crisis.
- Sanders also advocates raising the minimum wage, but his other job-creating strategies are less-clear.
- Trump has spoken against allowing jobs to move overseas, but he lacks any obvious plan for bringing them back.
Being an intern is a rite of passage for most college students; it is a way to gain career experience without committing to a position or employer. Unfortunately, internships are largely unregulated, and as a result, many interns receive unfair treatment. Interns are not slaves, but many workplaces treat them as such ― forcing them to do menial tasks like fetching coffee or organizing cabinets without pay. Because internships are so critical for a student’s future career, there should be regulations in place to ensure the experience is education and meaningful.
Unfortunately, many candidates are notoriously silent on this issue. In fact, of the frontrunners, only one actually pays his interns: Sanders. Clinton, Cruz, and Trump require an extensive application process for interns, but the most they provide in compensation is travel and food stipends. This might say enough about their interest in intern rights.
It took decades for state governments to enact restrictions on cigarette smoking, and that was after mountains of research proving that tobacco causes all sorts of deadly diseases. Today, some smokers are transitioning to smokeless e-cigarettes, yet despite a lack of evidence of the devices’ effects on vapers and non-vapers, most governments are quickly prohibiting e-cigs’ use left and right. Worse, some legislators may support policies that make it harder for vapers to find jobs, which is obviously troubling for soon-to-be college grads.
As yet, no candidate has officially stated his or her opinion on vaporizers and e-cigarettes. The majority of vapers support Clinton, with Trump and Sanders vying for second-place, though vapers’ reasons behind their choices might not be influenced solely by this one issue.
Climate Change Policies
Nearly every generation has done its part in wrecking the environment, but young people today will be among the first to endure the effects of climate change. Damage done to the environment today will have ramifications tomorrow, and college students are the ones hoping to survive and thrive into the future. Thus, electing officials who place an emphasis on environmental policies should be among college students’ primary concerns.
Here are how the candidates stand with climate change:
- Clinton links environmentalism with job creation and emphasizes children’s health to inspire regulations on toxic materials and pollution.
- Cruz has consistently opposed green legislation and calls for selling national park land to private ownership.
- Sanders is primarily concerned with cleaning up agriculture and protecting park land.
- Trump has issued a number of contrasting statements regarding his views on environmentalism and climate change, but he seems to support business over the environment.
Oberlin College political rally image by Hollywata from Flickr.