An overwhelming majority of St. John’s University students find college affordability to be a key issue in the 2008 Presidential Election, according to a poll conducted by the Torch of nearly 1,000 undergraduate students.
According to the poll, more than 60 percent of Obama supporters and over half of McCain supporters believe the current state of the economy is the most important issue in the election.
These results are similar to those of a poll conducted by the National Education Association (NEA), which showed 65 percent of college students found college affordability to be an issue in the election, with 34 percent believing it to be the most important issue.
“The financial crisis and economic slow down will mean fewer jobs,” said Thomas Liaw, St. John’s professor of economics and finance.
“Some families might experience a decline in wealth and even regular income, which will negatively impact their ability to pay their children’s college expenses. Thus, some students might need to find alternative funding or quit school.”
With fewer jobs available to those graduating, many students are concerned with how they will pay off debt that has accumulated during their college careers.
“It’s sad that we’re going to be in debt for the rest of our lives,” said junior Keeley Mangeno.
“My parents are in their 40s, and they’re just now paying off the last of their college loans. They should be saving for retirement!”
A common frustration among some college students is the quality of the education they are paying for.
“Compared to other countries, we pay more for similar or lesser quality,” said junior Julia Mignone.
“European and Asian education systems are more rigorous and focus a lot more on career preparation. China puts out three times the engineers we put out.”
In addition to taking education examples from other countries, many students believe that lowering tuition would allow more opportunities for those pursuing a higher education.
Many students said they have also found themselves financially distraught when money previously awarded or borrowed to fund their education was taken away from them at the last moment, altering their ability to attain housing or register for classes.
Both Senators John McCain and Barack Obama have outlined plans for making college more affordable, but many students feel that the issue has not been addressed properly by either candidate.
“Once elected, I don’t think our future president will do anything to make college more affordable,” said Mangeno.
“I think we’ll be lucky if these candidates do a fourth of what they say. I don’t think they feel it’s a big enough issue.”
Mignone said she also feels that neither of the candidates have been adequately focusing on college affordability.
“They aren’t addressing this issue as much as they should,” Mignone added.
“With so many young, first-time voters, they should be concentrating on the issue of college affordability.”