May 24, 2019
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Candidates take on student issues


Photo Illustrations by Doug Griswold / McClatchy Tribune

College is not affordable for many families. Many college students are in debt or lack health care. And some students are worried about what jobs will be available when they graduate in the next couple years.

With issues such as unemployment, health care, civil rights and education on the minds of voters, young people are seeing that this presidential election involves them too.

“This is big,” said Kelley Barnett, a child development major at Fresno State.

Barnett is a registered Republican, but because she disagrees with the party’s policies, she is voting Democrat this election.

This includes the presidential race; she is actually voting for Obama, not McCain.

During the last presidential debate viewing at The Bucket on campus, students and staff almost filled the room.

There were lots of rolled eyes and forehead slaps.

Organizers gave iClickers to each person and an overhead projector displayed the statement, “Barack Obama answered the question well,” with a rating scale of “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.”

The same scale was presented for McCain.

“These issues, like health care and the future of our jobs are important to college students because of the changing economy,” Barnett said. “I am very passionate.”

Barnett said she wears her “Obama ’08” pin every day to show her support.

“I wear it so that people come up and talk to me,” she said. “My neighbors have a McCain/Palin sign outside their house and I really want to talk to them and see their views.”

The discussion on education grabbed the attention of the audience.

“That’s really cool,” one woman said after Obama explained his hopes for education.

Obama explained that at the college level, he wants to make schooling more affordable to all Americans. He said he would ensure that the first $4,000 of college tuition would be free. He said that his plan would cover two-thirds of the cost of tuition for most Americans if they conduct 100 hours of community service.

Obama also hopes to cut the financial aid application process and have families simply check a box on their taxes.

“Obama is giving students resources,” Barnett said.

Education differences emerge

In contrast, McCain’s platform on higher education is to provide more information to families so that students can be more informed about their educational decisions.

McCain wants to offer lower taxes to families to help them send their children to college.

To help with student loans and debt, McCain wants to reform and leverage the private sectors of the student loan system — consolidate programs, such as financial aid, to simplify the process.

Carly Hammond, a senior psychology major at Fresno State, spends 30-40 hours a week at the Republican headquarters. One of her reasons for volunteering is that McCain plans to lower interest rates for student loans.

“Although [McCain’s] demographic is the middle-class American, he is still giving resources to people who may not be able to pay for school and need loans,” Hammond said.

Hammond said that although issues such as jobs, health care, civil rights and education are important to young adults, McCain’s stance on national security is what drew her to his side.

“I just feel that that McCain is more qualified to be our commander-in-chief,” she said. “I think Obama should be commended for his accomplishments, but he is not as qualified.”

Health care costs examined

On the issue of health care policy, Obama and McCain disagree.

McCain wants to achieve savings in Medicare without reducing benefits or eligibility.

In his plan, he wants to promote payment reform, eliminate Medicare fraud and abuse and also ensure that the middle class is not subsidizing drug premiums for the wealthiest Americans.

With these plans, McCain hopes to put families in charge of their health care and where their money is going.

Another volunteer for the McCain campaign, Allison Morris, a freshman political science major at Fresno State, agrees with McCain’s ideas of a “small government” in terms of health care.

“It’s about taking responsibility for themselves and not relying on the government,” Morris said. “It’s about keeping the choices in the people’s hand.”

Robert Herrara, a Fresno State political science major, supports Obama’s health care and small-business plans.

“My dad has a small business and is suffering because he cannot afford health care for his employees,” Herrara said.

Obama’s health care platform is such that that he wants to make health care more affordable and accessible to all by building on existing health care systems.

He also wants to lower health care costs and promote public health by providing coverage of preventive services, including cancer screenings. Obama would increase state and local preparedness for terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

Civil rights also important

Herrara’s friend, Levon Minassian, a political science student, is also voting for Obama because of Obama’s vision on equality and human rights.

Obama’s platform states that he wants to expand hate-crime statutes by passing the Matthew Shepard Act, which would expand federal hate-crime laws.

Obama also wants to ban racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies and wants to provide incentives to state and local departments to prohibit the practice.

“Obama makes it easier for people who are being denied rights,” Minassian said.

Both Minassian and Herrara believe that McCain is more focused on the war than helping Americans as a whole.

“I have no words for him,” Herrara said.

Clarke Plunkett, a Fresno City College student who volunteers 30 hours a week at the McCain headquarters, said McCain’s beliefs agree with his.

“Yes, he is making grants more accessible,” he said. “But his stance on national defense and abortion is more important to me.”

A ‘historic’ election

After the last presidential debate, in an informal poll, 76 percent of the audience at The Bucket on campus said they would vote for Obama.

Matthew Jendian, a sociology professor and director of the American Humanics Program, hosted the debate and is passionate about getting students involved in this election.

“I fundamentally believe we are more of a democracy if everyone is involved and participate,” Jendian said.

“We have to hold the President — whoever it is — accountable,” Jendian said. “Citizenship begins on Nov. 4, not ends.”

Sophomore Caitlin Sawatsky agrees. She sees the election as exciting and historic.

Since September, the political science major has been spending five to six hours a week at the Obama campaign headquarters.

“In the fourth grade, I would ask my classmates who their parents were voting for,” she said. “It’s really exciting to be a part of this. It’s history.”

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