Political Issues Affect Students More Than They Think

TONY ESPINAL | Opinion Editor

This year is a crucial one in American politics. This year brings the 2014 midterm elections.

Dozens of congressional seats will be up for grabs this election cycle, and it is imperative that as college students and get involved in the political process.

Maybe some of you are thinking: “Who cares?” Perhaps you believe that your vote doesn’t matter or you don’t care about politics. Maybe you think that the issues don’t really concern you.

You couldn’t be more wrong.

The campaigns are starting to ramp up. Politicians are hitting the trail to earn your votes. But since you may think the issues don’t matter to you, I wanted to provide you with some insight into what some members of Congress have been discussing.

Let me be clear: I am not advocating for any particular party or message, but I want to illustrate to you that the issues do matter to you.

At the beginning of April, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) released his budget proposal to the United States. It was passed through the House of Representatives, but is likely to be “dead-on-arrival” in the Senate.

This means the Democrat-controlled Senate will not even consider the budget proposal.

However, what happens if the Republican Party takes control of the Senate? Will they push the budget proposal through?

While many believe that the budget is nothing more than a political show for grassroots conservatives, it can have a profound impact on students if it were to pass.

Rep. Ryan has suggested that the government cut $145 billion from education over the next 10 years, according to The New York Times. This includes taking away $90 billion from federal Pell Grants and no longer offering subsidized loans to college students.

If you are not familiar with what a subsidized student loan is, allow me to explain.

A subsidized student loan allows students to take a loan from the federal government and pay for tuition without accumulating any interest on the loan until after the student leaves school and begins making payments.

By taking this away, students who take out federal students loans will start accumulating interest immediately while they are still in school.

Imagine collecting 3 percent interest annually on $50,000 worth of student loans while you are still in school, instead of deferring until you find a job and can start making payments. Imagine losing the Pell Grants that help fund your education.

Whether or not you support the Ryan plan, do you still think the issues do not matter to you?

What if I were to tell you that six percent of your federal tax dollars goes to paying interest on the national debt?

The national public debt hit $12 trillion in 2013 and $221 billion federal tax dollars went to pay for the interest alone, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Now what happens if the debt continues to climb?

More and more of your tax dollars go to pay for more interest payments and less goes to essential programs such as education.

This is your money. Do you know what is being done with it? Do you care?

In 2012, The Huffington Post reported on a study done by the University of Maryland.

The study showed that college students seem to be apathetic about what is going on in politics.  In fact, the study noted that several of the students involved seem to rely heavily on Twitter for their political news. Fewer students still shared what they learned or spent any real time searching out political news.

This concerns me.

I say this because the men and women of Congress control our very lives, in a sense. They decide how to spend our tax dollars, they decide whether or not we go to war and they decide how much money to give us to help fund our education.

If you continue to ignore the issues, then you may wake up one day and find the very programs you rely on are no longer around.

You may find that the police force hired to protect you is undermanned and underfunded. At the same time you may find that money is being used to renovate sports arenas or fund tax credits.

I am calling on all Butler students to take 30 minutes out of their day. Read the news, research the issues and learn about your candidates. Contact your legislators and voice your concerns.

Instead of watching reruns of television shows, listen to a few speeches made by your representatives and learn their direction.

I hope that you see the issues are far more important than you may realize.