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Student Voices: Young People In Their Own Words Discuss the Issues They Care About This Election

Recent polls show that one-third of young people are “absolutely certain” to vote, and 56 percent are likely to vote. Meanwhile, virtually every social movement over the past two years has been driven by the passion and dedication of young people, so young voters have a real opportunity to elect leaders that have their best interests at heart. Here are some of their perspectives on the issues they care about:

College Affordability

“Pursuing a master’s degree in public service management was necessary for me to increase my job opportunities and employability after being laid off and going months without a new job. Though my master’s helped me land a job in public service, I have accumulated more than $100,000 in student debt. While I don’t regret going back to school to increase my job opportunities, I wish there would have been better financing options to pay for school and relieve the grueling stress associated with the costs. In the midterm elections, I’ll support candidates who will protect loan forgiveness programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness and have plans to tackle the nation’s troubling student debt crisis.”

– Le’Loni English, Public Service Management Graduate from DePaul University (IL)

“Earning my bachelor’s degree at a public university as my state drastically cut college funding was one the toughest moments in my life. It was extremely difficult to find scholarship opportunities from my university as my campus finance office repeatedly cited lack of funding. I was forced to take out public loans to compensate for my state’s lack of financial support. As I pursue a master’s degree in occupational therapy, I’m hesitant to take out more loans to finance my education, but I might have to so I can accomplish my goals. My vote this fall will support candidates that seek to implement smart affordability solutions for people like me.”

– Marissa Epps, an Occupational Therapy Masters Student at Chicago State University

“Higher education plays an important part in my life. I recently earned my bachelor’s in sociology from the University of Colorado-Denver and I’m now pursuing a masters in nonprofit management from Regis University. When I complete my education, I anticipate my student debt will total more than $100,000, so programs like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness are necessary for me. When I hit the polls this November, I will only vote for people that seek to make affordable higher education a top priority.”

– Cameron Vigil, a Non-Profit Management Master’s Student at Regis University (CO)

“As a first-generation college student and immigrant, I’m grateful that state and federal financial aid programs exist because they have made it easier for me to focus on my education and less on financial obstacles. I would not have been able to attend college full-time and stay on track to graduate within four years without these programs. This fall, college affordability will definitely be on my mind when I cast my vote.”

– Murshedur Shahy, an Environmental Engineering Student at City College of New York

“Paying college tuition is not easy. On top of that, the cost of attendance can add a few more thousand dollars to one’s final bill. The high cost of textbooks, parking, and other class expenses makes it much harder for students that are already struggling to get by. When I vote in this year’s elections, I’ll support candidates that look to make college more affordable for students like me.”

– Sara Ifteiha, an International Relations Student at the University of Texas at Austin

“Attending a university with an annual sticker price of more than $60,000 is not easy to manage, especially if you do not want to take out both private and public loans, which is what I had to do. With the recent failure of Congress to reauthorize the Federal Perkins Loan Program, I find my financial aid award decreasing each year. This fall, college affordability will definitely be on my mind when I cast my vote.”

– Lujain Al-Khawi, a Biomedical and Electrical Engineering Student at the George Washington University

Access to Affordable Health Care

“Over the years, I have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome and anxiety, which make it harder to live a normal life. When I lived in New Jersey with my parents, their health insurance alleviated several of my fears by providing access to health care to treat my health conditions. Now, I attend college in Washington, D.C., where I’m not covered. Without health insurance coverage in the city, I struggle to find affordable health care to treat my health conditions. I think it’s hard enough to juggle rigorous college courses, so not receiving adequate health care treatment makes it worse. In November, I’ll have my eyes set on candidates that seek to make our health care system work better for young adults.”

– Madison Watters, a Political Science Student at George Washington University

“I can’t treat my asthma and eczema properly because I don’t have health insurance. For now, I get medicine only when I can afford it. Also, it’s difficult going to college with untreated conditions – when the itchiness from my eczema is so unbearable I have to leave class. It’s hard living a normal life without affordable health care to help treat my conditions. I will cast my ballot in November knowing that affordable health care is very important for me.”

– Aisha Pittman, a Social Work and Health Science Student at Austin Community College District

Addressing Barriers to Voting

“My mother’s hard work to keep hundreds of teachers from being laid off in my small hometown gave me firsthand experience with civic engagement and solidified the importance of voting for me. Through my work with civic engagement organizations, I have seen that students want to vote but barriers discourage them from voting. There are many solutions to make voting easier for us, such as automatic voter registration and investing in voter education classes on college campuses. When I vote this fall, I’ll support candidates that seek to work with young adults to find solutions to make voting easier and more inclusive.”

– Zoe Williamson, a Political Communication Student at Louisiana State University

“There’s this narrative that young people are apathetic and disinterested in politics, but in my experience, it’s not apathy so much as learned hopelessness. I began my civic engagement journey in high school when a teacher sparked my interest in environmentalism, but it wasn’t until my training with the Student PIRGs in college that I really felt like I had the skills and confidence to fully participate in the political system. One of the most important issues I work on now is promoting voter participation and accessibility because – for young people who may not have access to all the tools of activism that I’ve benefited from – voting is the most essential way to embrace the political power that we all deserve to have. I’ll definitely be thinking about how voting could be made easier for young adults as I cast my ballot in November.”

– April Nicklaus, a student activist with NJPIRG and Environmental Policy Student at Rutgers University-New Brunswick