Students Are Not Single-Issue Voters

Illustration: Madalyn Drewno


Politicians are desperately trying to connect with the college voter demographic, and their platforms have inevitably revolved around student loans and tuition costs.

On Aug. 12, 2015, Hillary Clinton’s official Twitter page tweeted out “How does your student loan debt make you feel? Tell us in 3 emojis or less.” One of President Barack Obama’s most popular initiatives is his platform to provide free community college. Bernie Sanders promised to do away with college tuition across the US. Donald Trump is dodging lawsuits regarding the Trump University fiasco. Somehow, there isn’t an emoji that embodies a patronizing attitude. We’d use it.

Photo: Madalyn Drewno
Photo: Madalyn Drewno

Here’s  PSA to all US politicians: stop treating college students as single-issue voters. We’re not. We can’t afford to be single-issue voters because the world we’re entering is not a single-issue world. The world we’re graduating into is a cutthroat, layered one where pressing student loans—though heavy burdens to carry—will not be the orienting force in our lives.

We’re so tired of the same student-focused rhetoric that tells us all we should care about are GMOs, TOMS, recyclable coffee cups, and student loan interest. Do you think we’re so shallow? The US has millions of students who are struggling with mental disorders, family strife, systemic racial and sexual and economic discrimination, homelessness, predatory funding institutions, sexual abuse, extreme poverty, and genuine disillusionment with our ineffectual role in this country.

We witness and experience the systemic malfunction in our economic, political, industrial, and educational structures, and the best you can come up with is “free college for everyone!” Free college won’t solve the problems facing this country, and we know it.

We’re pursuing careers in hundreds of different fields. Is your economic and industrial policy strong enough to handle that? We’re having families. Are your health care, education, and justice systems stable? We’re an environmentally-focused generation. What are you going to do about pollution, working conditions regulations, and waste control? Many of us work in the service industry. What’s your stance on minimum wage? How about paid family leave? We’re students now, but we won’t always be. There are questions that transcend experiences in the classrooms and crowded hallways, that aren’t completely out of reach.

As individuals coming of age in a global arena, we’re realizing what the United States’ role around the world actually is. What’s your foreign policy regarding developing third world countries? Do you have a plan for military spending? What are you planning to do about religious freedoms? Talk to us about states’ rights, what you perceive to be the constitutional extent of government involvement, how you’re going to move heaven and earth to close the wage gap and empower low-income families to lift themselves out of poverty. And balance that out with the notion that many of us work dozens of hours and multiple jobs a week and that we believe we ought to keep the money we’ve earned.

Yes, we’re in debt now. Students are wiping ramen crumbs off our sleeves and groaning at our credit scores and hoping that we can make it to Friday on $4. But we won’t be like this forever. We are the voters who will decide the political future of this country. Right now, all you’re telling us is that all our college debt problems will magically disappear  and that we can pursue our golden dreams under your watchful administration. We’re not buying it. Let’s talk cybersecurity and tax reform.

Elsa Peterson
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