With the presidential election fast approaching, American college students will be analysing the stances of each of the reaming candidates on issues which are of importance to them, in particular climate change and the cost of college. These issues also weighed heavily on the minds of student voters in the recent general election here in Ireland.
Climate change, which has typically been an important issue for younger generations, has recently grown in prominence. There has been an increase in calls for policy proposals which promise to take substantive action and show tangible results. The more progressive wing of the democratic party has been influential in implementing these beliefs in a political sense. Their biggest result so far has been the drafting of the ‘Green New Deal,’ a plan which aims to transform America into an eco-friendlier country. Sanders is the only remaining candidate to support the plan and as a result, has received widespread support and endorsement from various environmental groups. On the contrary, Biden has received backlash for his plan, the ‘Clean Energy Revolution,’ with most criticisms addressing the reliance it has on the fossil fuel industry during the so-called transitional period to a greener country. Policies such as the introduction of 500,000 charging ports and providing $400 billion in research are steps in the right direction, but it’s clear that the ‘Green New Deal’ offers a more comprehensive and complete solution.
Student debt has always been a concern for American students and the past ten years have only seen the situation worsen. The accumulative student loan debt currently stands at $1.5 trillion and the average debt per student is estimated to be around $30,000, almost twice as much as the average developed country. These high numbers are due in part to the drastic increase in tuition fees in the last ten years. Sanders’ plan to tackle the issue has been the most well-received and would see the cancelling of all student debt but also the implementation of free college, both solving the debt and ensuring that the problem would not simply repeat itself in the future. Biden’s plan has been viewed as the worse of the two by students. It promises to cancel student debt but only in bankruptcy and fails to effectively address the ever-rising tuition fees. The anger felt by students in America is similar to those expressed in Ireland at the rising cost of living for students and the increased barriers to education that it creates.
While the majority of students will vote democrat regardless, there should be a sense that this election was a missed opportunity. In Sanders, American students find a viable candidate whose proposed policies provided tangible and head on solutions to issues that directly affect them. However, with Biden now appearing to be a shoo-in for the democratic nominee, students will only have the option to vote for him or Trump, neither of which has been popular with that demographic.
Ben Duggan – Politics Writer