2008 proved a landmark election year for the 18-to-29-year-old demographic, with 51% of qualified Americans within this age range showing up at the polls. Sixty-two percent of those with at least some college experience voiced their opinions on economic, social, and political issues, and four years later, it’s looking like they may very well show up in the same (relative) droves. Because so many topics big and small directly dictate their lives, it behooves new and seasoned voters alike to familiarize themselves with today’s most pressing debates. Start with the following and branch out from there for a broad view of everything currently at stake.
The New York Times refers to the current crop of college graduates as
“The Limbo Generation” because they happen to enter into an economy pockmarked by high unemployment. Growing up, higher education was always touted as an essential gateway toward many (if not most) career paths, but reality proved otherwise when businesses just stopped hiring. A 2010 Center for Information & Research on Civil Learning & Engagement showed that voters between the ages of 18 and 29 considered improving the economy the most pressing political issue, with 59% reporting it as their primary concern. Considering how an estimated 64% of Occupy participants are under the age of 35, it doesn’t look like much has really changed since then.
- Tuition and student loans:
College students continue demonstrating in the United States and Canada alike, angered largely over tuition hikes and favoring student loan reform. For obvious reasons, of course! President Barack Obama, the Democratic incumbent in the 2012 election cycle, has already made some headway in making it easier for graduates to pay off the money they’ve taken out for their higher educations, but more legislation needs implementing to protect their interests. As it stands now, the laws restricting payments to paying out no more than 10% of disposable income will not go into effect until 2014. Which, for cash-strapped college kids struggling to scratch up jobs after receiving their degrees, isn’t nearly soon enough.
- Birth control:
Health probably shouldn’t be much of a governmental issue beyond ensuring and encouraging, but policymakers have managed to turn this basic human right into a gladiatorial arena; women in particular must watch on as their bodies are politicized rather than humanized. Backlash against birth control pills particularly piques controversy, with detractors making news whenever they attempt to discourage or outright ban access to these potentially life-saving drugs. Even factoring out how they lower the risk of unwanted pregnancies — an expensive and time-consuming challenge for already broke and harried college students — doctors prescribe Ortho Tri-Cyclin, Yaz, and similar pharmaceuticals when preventing other diseases and conditions. Birth control also happens to be useful for relieving horrendous period-related pain (migraines and cramps in particular), preventing uterine and ovarian cancer, alleviating issues with fibroids and endometriosis, bolstering bone density, and lowering the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease. Only 34% of voters at all age levels consider birth control a major issue in 2012, with women the most likely demographic to prioritize it. This controversy impacts far, far more women than just the sexually active, and college ladies who value their long-term health and wellness should stand up and take notice to what the candidates have to say.
Seventy-seven percent of pregnancies in women who have completed “some college” are unplanned, making up 40% of the total of those between the ages of 20 and 29. In 2002, this meant $5 billion worth of medical costs. College women unable to shoulder the fiscal and temporal expenses can seek private, safe facilities in which to terminate their pregnancies and plan families — if they even want them at all, of course — around their own schedules and those between the ages of 20 and 24 are the most likely (29.6 out of every 1,000) to seek out the procedure. If the rest of the United States follows the example of Arizona, which restricts abortions past 20 weeks and considers women pregnant before they even conceive, this means compromising their bodily autonomy and constructing their lives around the will of the government rather than personal choice.
After the economy, healthcare ranks as the second most major political issue for voters between ages 18 and 29, with 24% listing it as their primary concern. Understandable! Even completely purging the socialized medicine vs. private healthcare debate, every single individual on the planet deserves affordable access to the resources necessary to keep alive and as kicking as possible. Idaho requires all full-time college students to carry a health insurance policy, tacking even more costs onto their already burdened bank accounts — to the tune of $2,124 at Boise State, or an increase of 20.9%. On a national level, many are allowed to stay on their parents’ plans up to age 26, but this is an option not available to all. Scammers so often take advantage of college kids’ vulnerability, and intensive research is necessary to prevent the loss of even more money.
- LGBTQ equality:
According to a 2002 Gallup poll, roughly a quarter of the American population identifies as homosexual, so it’s probably just a little bit logical to assume that a goodly portion of these individuals have or will attend an institute of higher learning at some point. Most campuses these days play host to LGBTQIA organizations (at minimum) providing resources and support to students who feel confused or marginalized by their sexualities and gender identities and expressions, and every year Campus Pride ranks the best colleges and universities for meeting their needs. Supporting equality means nurturing a safer atmosphere for LGBTQIA classmates, for whom suicide and bullying stand as a much more heightened risk than their cisgendered or heterosexual peers.
So far, Operation Iraqi Freedom has resulted in nearly 4,500 American military casualties since its inception. In Afghanistan, the number sits at just under 1,938 at the time of writing. Because the average age of active duty combatants hovers around 28, this means quite a bit of overlap with college students who take advantage of the GI Bill after returning. In fact, many enlistees sign up with their preferred branch with the hopes of eventually affording college or vocational school. Regardless of one’s perceptions regarding American involvement in international conflicts, the troops fully deserve a fair chance at the higher education opportunities they need to accomplish their goals. Keeping them alive and safe is, quite obviously, the most essential component.
- Internet restrictions:
Even though SOPA/PIPA never landed, it certainly forced the Internet generation to take notice of how politicians impact their digital doings. Now CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, elicits outcries from citizens and businesses concerned that its allowing open access to website data without a court order means the potential for egregious privacy violations. Considering three out of 10 “best jobs of 2012” involve working directly with computers (and, of course, so very, very many more), more and more graduates will likely land directly in these legislations’ crosshairs. Even then, understanding the ins and outs of online privacy and its relationship to civil rights is a valuable knowledge set to possess, especially as society grows more and more reliant on digital media for pretty much everything ever.
- Gas prices:
With gas prices constantly swelling, the additional costs are of course disconcerting to commuting collegiate. And with hybrid and electric cars still forging their own niche economically and environmentally, many can’t afford to invest in the greener option. On a geopolitical scale, prudent consumers should know exactly what sorts of policies dictate how their oil and gas travel from underground to their vehicles, because consumers deserve to know the grim realities of ecological abuse and shocking human rights violations behind their purchases — information more than just college students could sorely use.
Currently, American renters pay roughly $804 a month, as compared to homeowners shelling out an average of around $185,200 per unit. With the housing crisis a constant theme in the news these days, issues relating to this hallmark of independence in and after college are of the utmost importance to enrollees. They have to live somewhere, and while 85% of recent graduates move back in with mom and/or dad after receiving their degrees, once again such a scenario is not open to all. Like healthcare, all persons hold the right to safe, affordable housing, and college kids with little to no disposable income in particular must pay close attention to how much money they’re spending every month.