‘It’s Your Country, Too’: Student voting will significantly impact election 2012

By Lindsay Haislip
News Editor

In just two months, America’s voters will flock to polls nationwide to elect the newest Commander In Chief. With the push of a button, the pull of a lever, or the punching of a chad, voters will decide the future of student loans, the future of healthcare, and the direction of the nation’s economy.

“Student loan rates are on the table right now, Pell Grants, things like that really affect college students in particular. It’s important to be updated on the issues, know what the issues are, and to vote because your voice matters in the election,” said vice president of the College Democrats Club Mattias Falcon.

Student debt continues to play a significant role in the election, as two thirds of students take out loans to pay for college. The current student debt burden is currently over $1 trillion, with rapidly rising default rates.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Democratic candidate President Barack Obama enter this election with differing views on education funding.

According to the US Department of Education website, Pell Grants, unlike a loan, do not need to be repaid. The amount granted to an individual in Pell Grants depends on a student’s financial need, costs to attend school, status as a full-time or part-time student, and plans to attend school for a full academic year or less.

Romney has no intention of increasing Pell Grants, as he does not support federal payment of student debt. He instead supports the re-implementation of private lenders into the federal student loan business, re-introducing competition among lenders.

Both Romney and Obama support the extension of a discounted interest rate on subsidized federal loans, electing to keep the rate at its current low rate of 3.4 percent.

Obama supports an opposing view on Pell Grants, of which he is a strong supporter. He would not reduce eligibility for students, would retain the entitlement funding portion, and allow increasing the maximum grant amount given to students.

“The Federal Pell Grant opens up doors of opportunity for so many students, and often unknown to their peers,” said senior Aubrey Hastings. “I receive full Pell Grant every year by filling out the FAFSA and without that $5,000 I would not be able to attend WC or even a community college. Any cuts to Pell Grants would have serious repercussions for students who fully depend on them like I do,” she said.

This election will also decide the future of healthcare in America, with President Obama’s Obamacare, formally known as “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” at the forefront of the discussion. If re-elected, President Obama would continue to support his trillion dollar federal takeover of the U.S. health care system, which mandates health insurance for all Americans, does not allow health insurance companies to turn down patients based on pre-existing conditions or gender, mandates health insurance companies to cover preventative services at no extra cost, and mandates that regular health screening appointments be covered as well.

It is no secret that the nation is facing one of the worst economic situations in its history. Regardless of which candidate is elected, he will be met with a budget deficit that needs to be immediately addressed if the US economy has a change for future growth.

Washington College President Mitchell Reiss stressed the fact that with a national debt of more than $5 billion, students should be the most concerned with the issues surrounding this election “because [the deficit] is there, it’s a reality, and other people are going to make those decisions for you unless you get involved.”

Obama’s focus is on US job creation, while Romney advocates a fiscally conservative policy, with significant spending, budget, and tax cuts in order to boost the economy and restore jobs.

Members of the Washington College and Kent County community have been steadfast in support of their preferred candidate and the issues they are passionate about, as well as the belief that all who are eligible should register to vote.

Now that both the Republican and Democratic Conventions have come to a close, the 2012 presidential race is in its final stretch. Both candidates are ready for an extremely close and heated election.

For the students of WC, this election means a great deal. Political clubs on campus are excited at the amount of interest from students wanting to get involved.
Vice president of the College Democrats Club Mattias Falcon said, “Whatever the outcome of the election is, it’s going to have an impact on you, so make sure your voice is heard, whether that’s for [Mitt] Romney or [President Barack] Obama or whatever issues you think are important to you.”

The College Democrats Club has a number of events coming up in preparation for the election, including a debate during Fall Family Weekend with the College Republicans Club. The debate will allow the two opposing campus political organizations to discuss the issues relevant in Election 2012 in an open and professional forum.
“We’re really excited for the debate and we’re going to be very prepared,” said College Republicans Club President Genevieve Murphy.

The College Republicans have been working closely with the Kent County Republican Central Committee to get involved with the community, assisting with sign waving in various locations around Chestertown, as well as volunteering weekly at the Republican Central Committee’s table at the Chestertown Farmer’s Market.

President Mitchell Reiss, along with the leaders of campus political organizations, consider this election and students’ participation in it to be important.

“It’s your country too. You have more of a stake in the future than older people do simply because you’re going to be around a lot longer. And we’ve certainly got some great challenges and they’re not going to get solved by themselves,” said President Reiss.

The election of four years ago was a chance for America to take a historical stride forward in electing its first black president. According to the US Census Bureau, voters age 18 to 24 showed significant increase in turnout, reaching 49 percent in 2008 compared with 47 percent in 2004. Although this year’s election lacks some of the excitement brought on by the opportunity to elect the first African-American president, the issues we face in 2012 are no less important to vote on.

“I think this election is way more important [that 4 years ago] and I wish people were actually more involved and really wanted to get out there and vote and campaign and not just sit around and complain,” said Murphy. “Because the economy has gotten so much worse, it’s crucial that we do something to change it.”

A packed schedule is no excuse for not being informed about the upcoming presidential election. The College has a lineup of experts from across the political spectrum scheduled to come to campus.

On Tuesday, Sept. 18 at 5:30 p.m. in Decker Theatre, WC will welcome Matt Bai and Richard Cramer to kick off “The Anatomy of an Election: A Special Series on American Politics.” The series is cosponsored by the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and The Louis L. Goldstein Program in Public Affairs.

Bai is the chief political correspondent for The New York Times Magazine, where he has covered both the 2004 and the 2008 presidential campaigns. He is also the author of a political online column for The Times.

Cramer is the author of “What It Takes: The Way to the White House,” which has been widely acclaimed as one of the all-time best books on American electoral politics.
On Thursday Sept. 27 at 5:30 p.m. in Hynson Lounge at Hodson Hall Commons, Louis P. Masur, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor in American Institutions and Values, will head the discussion on his new book, “Lincoln’s 100 Days: The Emancipation Proclamation and the War for the Union.”

Pulitzer Prize winning author James Steele will address technology and its relation to the election. He will be on campus on Oct. 4 to discuss his newest book with co-author Donald Bartlett, entitled “The Betrayal of the American Dream.” On Oct. 2, WC will welcome Sasha Issenberg, the author of a new book “The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns.”

The Series continues with Trevor Potter on Oct. 16, a former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission.

Finally, on Oct. 23, the final event of the four-part series will focus on media and personalities. Jack Bohrer, Betsy Fischer, James Hohmann, and Jonathan Martin will lead the debate. The group represents a prominent political writer, a producer, and two political correspondents, all of whom have a great deal of experience with different facets of politics and elections.

“The lineup of speakers is really impressive this fall,” said President Reiss. “We’ve all seen some of the nastiness of the campaign, and I hear it may get worse in the fall, so one of the things we need to make sure we do here is discuss things with civility. Screaming at each other isn’t going to get much accomplished.”
Like the popular slogan says, “get informed, have a voice, vote.”

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