Staff Editorial: Sizing up the election issues

As the 2008 presidential election draws near, there are issues that demand serious study from voters before they cast their ballots. The Hatchet’s editorial board has focused on specific areas central to college student life that warrant examination before the primaries and November election.

Higher education affordability key

As the country faces wars abroad and economic woes, the world of higher education cannot be pushed to the back burner. An ideal candidate for this country’s presidency must have a plausible plan for how to increase the affordability and access of today’s college education while keeping our schools competitive on the world scene.

Perhaps the most pressing issue facing today’s students is how to pay the ever-increasing bills of university life. Many GW students are not strangers to the process, as about 60 percent receive some sort of financial aid, with the average need-based package at $33,809. GW’s aid relies heavily on loans, funds that must be repaid.

Federal loans such as the Stafford and PLUS have limited funding, forcing many students to turn to private lenders. Yet as the economy changes due to the looming fears of recession, many options in the private sector are fading, too. It is then necessary that the next elected leader ensure more funds for federal loans and grants while working to make the ability to pay back loans viable for students with initiatives like lowered interest rates. Increasing the impact of programs such as the Pell Grant in the face of rising education costs is a must. Although expensive at a time when money is being utilized elsewhere, the U.S. must not sacrifice education.

A feasible way to aid the affordability of college while increasing public service from young people would be a more pronounced system of working off loan and debts through federal public service organizations. Groups such as the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps, already attracting thousands of students and recent graduates, could be expanded with additional benefits of reducing student loans. Besides offering the chance to aid communities in the most need, more opportunities through federal service organizations like these could alleviate the burdens of student loans.

Finally, the next president must commit to keep American schools competitive across the globe. The American school system has long been a source of pride, but today more time is spent on simply maintaining the system rather than advancing it, especially in math and the sciences. Primary and secondary schools must be provided with the tools to make visible headway in learning, not just standardized testing. Increasing the miniscule wages of the majority of teachers in this country is a must, hopefully attracting qualified and enthusiastic teachers to the students that need them the most.

A preferential candidate’s platform must include a real plan for affordability and a focus in keeping American schools, even at the primary and secondary levels, viable on the world stage.

Reasonable healthcare for young adults is crucial

The health care system in this country is seriously flawed, leaving tens of millions of Americans without coverage. A viable candidate must not only recognize this, but also have a realistic way of approaching the problem. While federal changes to the current situation are necessary, reasonable moves instead of a complete overhaul are a must.

A focus on preventative care in a healthcare system would help alleviate many problems across the board. Guaranteeing healthy school lunches in public schools and gym class times, for example, are endeavors that could have a visible impact in America’s youth increasingly bad health. Encouraging patients to seek medical advice before a situation becomes an emergency and annual check-ups are important and viable options as well.

Studies show that money spent on preventative health care actually results in less spending aggregate. In a healthier population, costly surgeries and doctor visits later in life could be less frequent and less of a burden on tax-payers.

A specific concern for recent college graduates is how to obtain healthcare coverage when they are no longer eligible for their parent’s plan and do not have the option of attaining their own. Extending the ability to stay on a parent’s healthcare until the age of 25 would help guarantee a specific population have coverage even without healthcare available from an employer. With federal programs such as COBRA having high fees, recent graduates on a limited budget need an alternative option to guaranteeing insurance.

These are small concerns for a troubled system, but a candidate must not lose track of what is feasible in a four-year span, especially in the context of a divided Congress dictated by partisan politics.

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