Why Congress Should Invest in Community Colleges

The issue of how expensive college has become dominates the news almost every week. We found this recent article on Forbes that recommends that American Students can slash their college tuition bill by studying abroad. That’s because according to the article, in the 10 years from 2002 to 2012, the price of undergraduate college eduction – tuition, room and board at public universities rose 40%. If that is the increase in public colleges, one can only imagine what is happening at private universities, where costs rise much faster without any regulation or interference. It is therefore fair to say that the cost of higher education is out of control and something needs to be done to make it more affordable, otherwise, a whole section of students, especially those from poor homes are going to be priced out. Are we headed to a time when getting a college education is reserved for the rich and kids form the middle class only? If public universities are now becoming unaffordable, what other options are out there for kids who want to get a higher education degree but can’t afford public or private universities?

Why Congress Should Invest in Community Colleges

That is why we are recommending that Congress invest in Community Colleges as an alternate to four year universities, so that students who cannot afford the cost of 4 year universities have an option when it comes to higher education. There are several benefits to the country in investing in the growth of two year colleges. First, they are great places for job training. Since the recession of 2008, millions of Americans have found themselves under employed or unemployed. Many have struggled to return to full time employment because they lack the skills to compete with younger applicants. Investing in re-training programs is a quick way to get these people back into the workforce and give them a chance at a second career.

Another reason to invest in community colleges is that they are the fastest route to financial security and prosperity for many. Those who enter the workforce early out of high school, either due to financial or family obligation find it very difficult to get to a four year college since those are more structured to cater to full time students. Community colleges provide the flexibility for working people and parents to be able to get a higher education in a way that accommodates their work and home obligations. Providing grants and scholarship programs targeted at those who are trying to develop news skills, change careers, move up their careers or better themselves can take advantage of this. If you look at the list of community colleges in the United States, they are usually located close to public transport and in areas that are easily accessible, versus 4 year colleges that seek sprawling isolated campuses that may not be convenient for working parents or full time employees.

There is data to show that when it comes to healthcare jobs, welding, automotive and high tech manufacturing, the best training ground for people who go into these jobs are community colleges. And in these scenarios, we think two year colleges are a better option than 4 year colleges. As the video above shows,these junior colleges help students train for a range of jobs in a particular field. Second, they form the basic for a four year college. Most associates degrees awarded in two year colleges in the sciences and arts are geared towards transfers to four year colleges.

Will there be a vote to shutdown the government?

A lot of people on government benefits are wondering whether congress will vote to allow the government to shutdown – perhaps over another fiscal fight. Just like it did in 2013, what everyone thought was not possible happened right in front of our eyes. Why is this a matter we the youth should be concerned about? Here’s why:

Will the government shutdown?

When the government closes or shuts down, essential services that are provided by the government are disrupted. The government shuts down when congress and the White House cannot agree on a resolution to continuing the funding of the federal government. As a result, since there is no money, services must be curtailed.

One of the areas that get impacted is benefit payments. Will social security benefit payments be made during a shutdown? How about food stamps and WIC? Will unemployment EPPICard payments be made as scheduled? These are the essential questions that must be asked because these services are relied upon my millions of Americans and any delay in these payments usually cause great hardships. That’s why everything must done to prevent the federal government from closing down.

So, while congress maintains deadlock and refuse to compromise, people are anxiously waiting to see whether they will continue to have their retirement benefits, food assistance funds, unemployment help and other essential programs that are essential to millions of people across the country. Government shutdown is not good for anybody, whether for the reputation of congress and for the people. We hope reason will prevail. Any vote that leads to a government having to close is a lose-lose for everyone involved.

Top 3 Issues for Congress to Vote on

What are the top three issues issues that the United States Congress must focus on for the remainder of their term, which ends in January 2015? In our opinion, the top the issues that must come to a vote are Food Stamps, Immigration and Veterans Care.

We picked Food Stamps as the first issue for obvious reasons. Even though the economy is improving and millions of people have found employment since the beginning of the year, there are still millions of people on SNAP Benefits and many more applying in states like Georgia. By the last count, there are 52 million people receiving food assistance from the federal government. What many people don’t know is that there are a fair amount of people who are on food assistance who have jobs. The problem is that they don’t make enough money to be able to cover their expenses, including putting food on the table. In addition, some of these people, while employed, have only been able to find part time jobs, so their income is not sufficient. The problem is worse, especially in the south where states like Georgia have a large percentage of their population on food stamps. The only way to help alleviate this situation is for Congress to vote more money towards these programs.

The next issue that requires a vote immediately is immigration. With the summer consumed by news of children crossing the southern border, it is time Congress addressed the issue of immigration. This includes securing the border, establishing a guest worker program, making it easy for highly skilled immigrants who come here for advanced degrees to stay, and also establish a path to permanent residency for the millions of people who are already here illegally. But it must first start with securing the border. Without that, all efforts are in vain since the problem will continue to grow.

"vote on a border bill"

Finally, while we have seen recent action on veterans healthcare, we need more action on caring for veterans. When they volunteer¬†to fight for this country, the least we could do is care for them when they return. The House Veterans Committee for example has held numerous hearings on the issue but we have not seen any concrete legislation that proposes a broad and comprehensive plan aimed at veterans care. This is a very sad situation especially given the challenges many veterans face finding employment when they return to civilian life. The long neglect has produced some of the most shameful statistics of our nation, including record number of veterans that are unemployed, homeless or can’t even afford the basic necessities and have to rely on the government for things like food assistance. It is time Congress takes on this issue head on and presents the people a comprehensive package to take care of the many veterans that have more than done their fair share to right for this country so we can keep our freedoms.

We think votes should be scheduled on these three issues before the end of the year, so they are not left for the next Congress to have to deal with. Besides, they are pressing issues that require action now!

Why the Youth Vote is Inconsistent

Each election year, you hear a lot of noise about why the youth vote is inconsistent. One election cycle it’s up, and then the next it’s down. Meanwhile other age groups are pretty consistent in their voting turnout. For example, senior voting patterns tend to be very predictable and follow a very consistent pattern. It is also true that in elections that are dominated by issues seniors care about, like Social Security and Medicare, you are likely to see a large number of seniors voting to protect their interests. Groups like the AARP also make sure that seniors turn out in record numbers when an election could change their benefits in a negative or positive way.

However, when it comes to the youth vote, the story is different. For example when Barack Obama first run for the Presidency in 2008, there is no question that his candidacy motivated a lot of young people and brought a large number of them into politics and political action and mobilization for the first time. Young people made a big difference in putting Obama in Office. If you look at the chart below, you will see that there was a big bump in youth voter turnout in 2012. The last time that happened was in 1992, when another presidential candidate, Bill Clinton, galvanized the youth into participating in politics and getting involved.

"Youth Vote turnout"

Why did young people turn out in record numbers in 1992 and 2008? There are several reasons. First, the candidates in question, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama represented hope and a fresh start. It also helped that they were both young and vibrant candidates, who easily connected with the youth and the issues important to them. But something interesting happened during the re-election of these two presidents. The youth vote fell, and in the case of Bill Clinton’s reelection in 1996, the youth vote fell considerably, from 48.6% in 1992 to 35.6% in 1996. In case of Obama’s reelection, the youth vote fell from 48.5% to 41.2% from 2008 to 2012 respectively. While this was not such a big drop as in the case of Clinton, it was still sizable drop.

One of the reasons political scientists give for this drop is the failure of candidates to address issues important to the youth – unemployment, higher education cost and accessibility, environment and climate change and issues of war and peace. However, Bill Clinton was re-elected during one of the boom times for the U.S. economy, and yet his re-election saw a much steeper drop in the youth vote. There must therefore be other reasons. One can hypothesize that the youth are only interested in change elections. Once they get their change candidate in office, they tend to lose interest in the day to day details of governing, so they have no reason to go back and vote for re-election since they are not close to the issues and therefore have no reason to get involved in the reelection of their candidate. Could it also be that once these change candidates get in office, they fail in keeping in touch with the youth and effectively communicate to them on what they are doing to fix issues that are important to the youth? Whatever the reasons are, there is no doubt that the youth tend to support a change candidate for election in masses and usually drop off during re-election.

For more on this topic, checkout this interesting article from the NY Times comparing voting patterns of baby boomers and millennials. Do you agree with our reasons? Why do you think the youth vote drops off during re-election? What do you think accounts for the low participation of young people in some presidential elections? Please comment below.

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