Does the GOP really have a youth vote problem? If you look at 2008 when Barack Obama was elected, and even 2012 when he won re-election, there was a clear indication that the youth voted in large numbers to elect him, especially in 2008 when they were moved into action by his promise of Hope and Change. During that election, Obama capture a whopping 66 of the youth vote. As the video below shows, there were doubts in 2012 whether Obama was going to get young people to vote, especially when the media kept saying that they have become disillusioned and lost hope in his leadership. Just checkout this PBS NewHour piece:
But as it turned out, Obama was comfortably re-elected, with a significant youth vote. He may not have gotten the same numbers he got in 2008 but he overwhelmly won their vote to beat Romney and hold on to the White House.
The GOP Youth Vote Problem
On the other side of the political divide, the GOP has been dealing with it’s own problems when it comes to the youth. This Washington Times article explains the challenges the GOP face in bringing young people to their fold. If you look at the demographic data, you begin to get the picture as to why this is a concern. Millennials, born between 1981 and 1999, consist of 80 million Americans. They now constitute one-fourth of the total voters today – which makes them a much larger voting population than seniors citizens. According to some estimates, they are going to make up as much as 40 percent of the electorate by 2020. As a result, anyone in politics today has to pay attention to this important voting block and the issues and policies that matter to them.
What do Millennials Want?
Millennials are concerned about issues that matter to them in their present day life. As they get older, those are likely to change, but now that they are in their 20s and early 30s, they are concerned about employment, income security, student debt burden, climate change, and social safety, like food assistance and healthcare that benefits those who cannot afford them. The issue of student debt burden has received much publicity as many millennials have gotten into the workforce and discovered that they are unable to make ends meet due to the heavy student loans they are carrying, especially those who went to grad school and find themselves with careers that can barely pay for their living and food expenses, let alone cover monthly payments for student debt.
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.