Top 10 Issues Students Care About Today

For our parents, the issues that got them out of the dorms and into the streets were war and free love. But AIDS kind of put a damper on the whole free love scene, and anti-war protests are almost nonexistent now. Though by most accounts college students were not nearly as involved in this year’s presidential election as they were in the historic ’08 race, they do have issues they get fired up about.

  1. Economy:

    When it comes to the top concern, college students are no different than the rest of Americans. They’ve seen the figures, how over half of recent college grads are either underemployed or unemployed, and they’re understandably alarmed. A Harvard Institute of Politics survey in April 2012 found nearly six in 10 young voters (ages 18-29) considered the economy their biggest worry. The issue has arguably been the most significant one facing students as far back as 2009, when the effects of the recession were first being widely felt. A national survey at the time by Money Management International found a third of students were having to change their college plans because of the poor economy.

  2. College finance:

    In visiting college campuses during the presidential race, both candidates in 2012 knew there was one subject their audiences insisted on hearing about: the soaring costs of getting a degree. More than 37 million Americans now have outstanding federal student loans, and the average student loan debt upon graduation is up to $26,500. Millions of students were closely monitoring the debate over raising the interest rate on federal loans this year, which fortunately was averted for 365 days. But you can bank on the fact that this issue is far from settled and will be at or near the top of students’ priorities list until it is.

  3. Sustainability:

    The college campus has undeniably become the epicenter of the sustainability movement in the U.S. Combining the sense of community inherent to university with a shared realization that certain global resources could disappear in their lifetime, college students have taken action by recycling, raising their own food, and living green. For example, Recyclemania has grown from a contest between Ohio and Miami Universities in 2001 to a nationwide battle involving hundreds of schools and millions of college students, while preventing the release of hundreds of thousands of metric tons of CO2 and waste. Really, it’s harder to find a school that doesn’t have some kind of sustainability or recycling program, and more often than not it’s the students who have called for these initiatives.

  4. Gay marriage:

    This one’s such a hot-button topic it’s no surprise to find college students getting involved. Presidential candidate Rick Santorum (remember him?) got some students’ opinion on the matter first-hand in the form of boos to his comparison between same-sex marriage and polygamy. When Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy waded into the debate this summer, college students from NYU to Appalachian State and a handful of other schools protested and drafted petitions calling for the closing of their campus Chick-fil-A branches. And as more red state governments vote on gay marriage bans, it has been college students who have become some of the loudest voices of opposition.

  5. Reproductive rights:

    Birth control and reproductive health became a major point of contention this year, and it was a college student who became the face of the story. After originally being denied a chance to testify to the House about a new contraceptive coverage law for religiously affiliated universities specifically because she was a college student, Sandra Fluke of Georgetown Law showed the country just how important the issue was to college women specifically. From the large crowds that gather to hear panel discussions to the popularity of roving “love labs”, students clearly value their reproductive freedom highly and will make their voices heard when attempts to restrict that freedom are launched.

  6. Abortion:

    Abortion is a part of the reproductive rights discussion, but it’s such a big issue by itself it deserves its own mention. While some subjects like gay marriage tend to bring out mainly pro voices at the collegiate level, abortion prompts heated vocalizations of opinion on both sides among students. Often these strong stances pit student against student, with the administration either looking for the nearest rock to crawl under or going the other direction and getting all disciplinarian. Of course, there are also times when the debate is civil, but unfortunately such occurrences seem to be in the minority.

  7. Health insurance:

    As with reproductive rights and student loans, health insurance has become a dominant issue in the minds of college students because of government action on the subject. Cash-strapped students were relieved to hear that with the Supreme Court’s upholding Obamacare, they would be allowed to remain on their parents’ plans until the age of 26. College papers dutifully attempted to point this out to their readers, who unfortunately have been shown to be out of touch with reality when it comes to their chances for receiving health care coverage from their first employer out of college. All they know is, with real wages going down and medical costs going up, they don’t want to be caught uninsured should a need for medical care ever arise.

  8. Internet censorship:

    College students really do care about protecting their Internet privacy; they just suck at doing it themselves. On one hand they want to tweet photos of themselves half-naked in the bathroom, but mention SOPA or PIPA to them and they will climb on the nearest soap box. College students are one of the biggest blocks of users of sites like Wikipedia, which went dark for 24 hours in January to protest the allegedly malicious Stop Online Piracy Act, with the full support of many colleges around the country. Two Canadian college students even created an app called “Boycott SOPA” to register their disgust.

  9. Immigration:

    No fewer than 700,000 students are illegal immigrants, who obviously have a serious stake in the debate over whether to allow them to remain in the country. But even though they aren’t directly affected by the DREAM Act, homegrown students also stay informed on the issue. When undocumented university employees are let go, for example, they take the administration to task and even discourage freshmen from enrolling. However, that’s not to say the issue is completely one-sided. The subject is also an important one to conservative students and even independent students who aren’t always thrilled with what they’re seeing regarding immigration.

  10. Climate change:

    Remember how we said college students are all in about sustainability? Well, this is why. With academics on hand drilling into them the very real danger of climate change, students have taken notice and are beginning to join the conversation in real ways. Whether its demanding their administrations pull funds out of dirty energy companies or beating the pavement to spread the word about global warming, students are clearly giving the issue more than the passing attention much of the rest of the country is currently offering.

Posted on 12/10/12 | by Staff Writers | in Resources | No Comments »

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