Bob Dylan had a song called “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” He may not be on everyone’s Spotify playlists in 2016, but the presidential election will bring a whole new meaning to the iconic 1964 tune.
The last two presidential elections seem so long ago. Only half of today’s undergraduates were even old enough to vote in 2012, and in 2008 we still thought Lil Wayne was cool and Twitter wasn’t; how could we have been trusted with political input? Needless to say, most college students are a bit inexperienced when it comes to elections and knowing what’s important (and not important) about them.
Several 2016 presidential candidates look promising and have a lot to offer our country in terms of political experience and potential for positive change. While only two Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, have gained much traction toward nomination, the number of Republicans in the race is enough to form a small stampede. Their stances on issues are, in some cases, polar opposites of those of their fellow candidates, and there are a few issues college students should really consider when deciding whether or not to care about who wins.
Here are the four issues at hand in the 2016 election that have the biggest impact on college students:
1. Education (obviously)
Oregon recently passed legislation that will offer students two free years of community college in an effort to encourage young adults to pursue postsecondary education without the burden of rising tuition rates and student loan debt. Obama, in addition to candidates like Bernie Sanders, has expressed support for similar programs on a national level, and candidates like Jeb Bush have suggested reform in high schools that would affect college admissions standards. Since we’re kind of, you know, IN college, we have a pretty good idea of what the education situation looks like these days. We have the opportunity to share our own recent experiences in terms of college admissions and student loans, and we can give older voters a bit more insight into what education is really like while supporting candidates whose campaigns best reflect our personal views based on experience.
2. Civil rights
Public universities are some of the best places to learn about the racial, cultural, sexual, socioeconomic, and intellectual diversity in our country. Students have the opportunity to share their varying experiences, from poverty to discrimination, and we are generally more accepting of others than previous generations have been. We’re able to develop informed opinions and keep our minds open to the struggles others endure, which are two very powerful tools when it comes to the civil rights issues America is unfortunately still facing. The presidential election isn’t just about civil rights, but the leading candidates will be set apart largely by their ability to reflect informed voters’ views on social issues, because social issues are what affect our daily lives most directly.
Obviously, college students are in college to pursue their chosen career paths. We want to ensure the job market is in as much demand as degree-holders are in supply. Debt isn’t fun, but it’s even worse when there aren’t enough opportunities for us to earn the paychecks to keep ourselves from drowning in it. The job market depends on the economy, which depends on the government, which depends on the people we elect to operate it, which means we better make sure our next president is on the same page as those of us who need jobs in order to live (hint: Not all of the candidates are on that page… scary, right?)
With social media becoming central to our daily lives, we’ve made ourselves the loudest generation in the country. Anything and everything we do is fair game for a new trend or viral news story or even a social movement… what if we used our ability to appeal to the masses for the purpose of bettering our country and, consequently, our future? Because here’s the thing: If we care enough about how the issues at hand will affect us, we CAN better our country’s chance at a bright future, and as college students, we’re the best people for the job. Registering to vote and participating on Election Day is the best way to ensure our futures are promising, and it’s even better when we can encourage and inspire our peers to do the same.