Multiple presidential candidates released their own plans to stem the rising cost of higher education, and the value of colleges has been a central focus of campaigns so far—but what do college students actually care about this election season?
The New York Times' "Room for Debate" published a series of op-eds by undergraduate and graduate students, each focusing on a different concern.
Supreme Court Justice appointments
"One Supreme Court appointee can make a difference. One vote secured marriage equality nationwide, but one vote also overturned a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. One vote also decided the 2000 presidential election and gave us Citizens United," writes Ashton Pittman of the University of Western Mississippi.
Watching two women be rejected for a marriage license "highlights for me how essential our federal court system is in protecting the rights of minority citizens against infractions by the majority," he writes.
"We will inherit a planet that the next president can either redeem or ignore," Boston College junior Ryan Duffy says. Young adults must be "especially vigilant" about candidates' stances on the issues, he argues.
Some candidates do not believe in climate change, but "even if we don't prioritize this issue, it will be present in our lives," Duffy writes.
"We not only have a responsibility to act, but with the largest economy in the world, the means to act. In 2016, voters should acknowledge that this is the defining story of our time and elect a candidate devoted to forging a responsible path," he concludes.
"No issue has graver importance in the 2016 election than the future of U.S. foreign policy, particularly when it comes to our relationship with the Middle East," argues Hannah Oh, a senior at Claremont McKenna College.
Millennials care about social issues but that does not mean they do not value strong international relations as well, Oh says.
"Presidential hopefuls for 2016 must outline an explicit and realistic foreign policy to address threats like ISIS head-on, in contrast to President Obama’s more reactive approach to foreign affairs," she writes.
"Unlike any other nation in the world, in the United States most students take out college loans," says Lucia Urizar, who studies at the Syracuse University College of Law.
"It is crucial that student loan forgiveness reforms and affordable tuition programs become priorities in the upcoming elections, "she urges. "Otherwise, we will spawn generations of Americans enchained to life-long debt."
The job market
Tied closely to the student debt issue are graduates' job prospects, and candidates must address unemployment, writes John Damianos from Dartmouth College.
"This election is about jobs and money. We need a candidate who will help us start a career after we graduate. We need a candidate who will address stagnant wages and youth unemployment," he says.
Every day, 22 veterans kill themselves. That rate and other issues—including years-long medical care waits—must be addressed in the coming election, says Ricky Wells, a University of Oklahoma senior and Marine veteran.
"Veterans themselves bear the burden of forming groups and addressing the inadequacies of the system. This is wrong—it should be the job of politicians. They are willing to put boots on the ground and open doors at recruiting stations but they drag their feet when it comes to fixing a broken system that is killing veterans every day," he says.
Police brutality and the justice system
"Our national issues with race and gender are not going to disappear with more political inertia and apathy," writes Mekha McGuire, a University of Kentucky senior.
"I've lost confidence and hope in the justice system. What is most important to me, in this next election, is that the candidates address racist state violence and articulate critical steps for criminal justice reform that make me believe I will survive a traffic stop without being harmed. The candidate that honestly and aggressively tackles this issue, will have my vote," she says ("Room for Debate," New York Times, 8/17).
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