Students rally to different banners

Despite clashes on issues, students agree candidates should listen to young voters.

by Bridget Haeg

For sophomore Maya Berezovsky, it’s abortion. For senior Margaretta Kusch, it’s the environment. Sophomore Joseph Decker is concerned with international economic policy.

No matter what the issue, some University students said presidential candidates should do a better job focusing on student voters and the issues that matter to them. However, many said that in the end, students have to take the initiative to inform themselves.

“The impetus is on the young person to educate themselves Ö our generation is going to pay for what is happening now,” political science senior Jack Carey said.

Mark Annis, co-chairman for the Campus Republicans, said the close connection of higher education to students’ lives is one reason it’s always a prominent issue at election time.

“The fact that tuition is going up so high – that’s one of the things that affects us most,” he said.

In response to tuition hikes, many candidates are focusing on the affordability of higher education.

President George W. Bush wants to expand support for community colleges and provide larger Pell Grants for low-income students, as he mentioned in his Jan. 20 State of the Union address.

Earlier this month, Bush released a budget plan that increased the amount first-year students can borrow from federal student-aid programs from $2,625 to $3,000.

North Carolina Sen. John Edwards said he wants to provide one year of free education for students attending public and community colleges. In return, students must work 10 hours per week in their community, according to his Web site.

The program is more beneficial because it’s not just a hand out, said Jamal Abdulahi, a University graduate and volunteer with Edwards’ campaign.

“Volunteering 10 hours and getting your tuition covered is more reasonable,” he said.

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry wants to pay students’ four-year tuition at a public university if they perform two years of national public service, according to his Web site. This includes military service and certain volunteer work.

Kerry also said he wants to provide an annual $4,000 tax credit for tuition payments.

The Democratic candidates would roll back Bush’s tax cuts to pay for the new programs, University DFL President Austin Miller said.

Sexuality rights

After the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling Feb. 3 called for same-sex marriage rights, and San Francisco same-sex couples participated in the city’s marriage spree earlier this month, Bush said he will continue to support laws that define marriage as a union between a man and woman.

Although Edwards and Kerry do not support same-sex marriages, they said they will recognize other rights for same-sex couples.

Edwards said he supports equal adoption rights for same-sex couples and does not want to amend the Constitution to define marriage as the union between a man and a woman.

Kerry also said he supports equal adoption rights and defends civil unions.

Other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights are on both Democratic candidates’ minds.

Bush supports the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which bans openly gay people from serving in the armed forces. Edwards and Kerry want to repeal the policy.

However, there are other issues on the gay community’s mind, said Emily Souza, treasurer of the Queer Student Cultural Center.

“It’s not a one-issue deal,” she said. “So many people have so many different ideas in the GLBT community.”

Jobs and economy

On Wednesday, Bush shied away from a White House prediction that the economy would add 2.6 million jobs this year.

Despite the information, Bush offers several solutions to continue economic recovery.

One idea is to allow small businesses to pool together to purchase health-care plans for their workers at lower rates. Bush also wants to continue increases in the child tax credit and permanently eliminate the death tax, which taxes a deceased person’s estate.

Edwards wants to give a 10 percent tax cut to corporations producing goods in the United States. He plans to provide venture capital to develop businesses in rural areas. He also wants to offer a matching tax credit up to $5,000 for people making a down payment on their first home.

Kerry said he plans to start a fund providing $50 billion in additional state aid during the next two years. The fund will help stop education cuts and tuition increases. He also supports granting legal status to undocumented workers who can pass a background check and have lived in the United States for a certain amount of time.

With several candidates focusing on a range of issues, learning them all can be a daunting task, Miller said.

“It’s a lot of work to get educated, and students are busy,” he said.

Miller said because the election will determine what happens with tax cuts and the war in Iraq, there should be larger voter turnout.

“The stakes are definitely high.”