As another class of college seniors prepares for graduation and another wave of high school students prepares to take its place, President Obama and Mitt Romney are aggressively marketing themselves to 20-something and teen voters who are worried about what happens after graduation.
Will they find an adequate job? Will it pay enough to cover their monthly student loan payments? Will they have to move back in with their parents? Or hide out in grad school? Will things get better by graduation day?
Nearly four years ago, young voters played a major role in electing Obama to the White House. And now everyone is wondering how teens and 20-somethings will vote this time around — that is, if they vote at all.
The issues that college students are passionate about vary from campus to campus, region to region, and major to major. Something that is consistent: student loan debt. At least two-thirds of students at four-year universities take on debt to pay for school, according to FinAid.org, and the total amount of outstanding student loan debt passed the $1 trillion mark last year.
Obama and Romney have both supported extending the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which is set to expire this summer and lowered the interest rate on federal student loans from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent. It’s unclear what Congress will do, and the Post has reported that many Republican lawmakers have balked at the $6 billion price tag attached to a one-year extension.
This week Obama is set to visit three large state universities over two days to promote the act, discuss college affordability and urge students to lobby their members of Congress. During the president’s first stop at the University of North Carolina on Tuesday, he talked about his own student loan debt and told students to use the Twitter hashtag #DontDoubleMyRate. (Obama also appealed to the hearts of Tarheel basketball fans by reminding everyone that was the team he picked to win his March Madness bracket.)
Meanwhile, Romney has also been appealing to young voters and recent college graduates who are faced with a bleak job market.
“I think young voters in this country have to vote for me if they’re really thinking of what’s in the best interest of the country and what’s in their personal best interest, because the president’s policies have led to extraordinary statistics,” Romney said during a press conference on Monday.
In addition to the 20-somethings who were old enough to vote during the last election, there’s a new wave of college voters who were under 18 in 2008. Senior White House officials told The Post on Monday that a key goal of Obama’s re-election campaign is to register as many of these young voters as possible.
These 18 to 21-year-old voters are also of special interest to the College Republican National Committee, which is preparing to send dozens of staff members to hundreds of campuses at the end of the summer to train students to campaign and sign up new voters, national chairman Alex Schriver told me this morning.
Schriver said many of these first-time voters have likely watched the struggles of their older brothers and sisters, some of whom might be unemployed or underemployed and living back at home. For them, the worries are greater than just student loan debt.
“They are worried about how they are going to be able to pay the bills, to support themselves,” said Schriver, who graduated in late 2010. “It’s jobs, jobs, jobs.”