Jobs, War, College Costs Among Issues Students Want Candidates to Debate

Jobs, War, College Costs Among Issues Students Want Candidates to Debate – Sep 29, 2004

Campus Leaders Helping Inform Students about Issues, Encouraging them to Vote

For Immediate Release: September 29, 2004
Contact: Catherine Heitman, 225-342-6950 or 219-0265

BATON ROUGE, La. – With the presidential debates beginning tomorrow and the election just weeks away, many Louisiana college students are focusing their attention on issues that face their immediate futures – jobs, college costs and the war, among others.

Louisiana’s college and university student leaders have organized voter registration drives on their campuses and are sponsoring rallies and voter mobilization efforts. Their goal is to ensure that students have access to information about the issues and that they exercise their right to vote on Nov. 2.

According to student leaders, their efforts have helped about 4,428 students register to vote on UL System campuses — Grambling State University, Louisiana Tech University, McNeese State University, Nicholls State University, Northwestern State University, Southeastern Louisiana University, UL Lafayette and UL Monroe. The leaders are hoping that their efforts to engage students in the election will make them a bigger factor in public policy.

“We want elected officials to know that college students are stepping up to the plate,” UL Lafayette student Trumaine Thomas said. He and Louisiana Tech student Lindsay Mencacci led the voter registration initiative for all Louisiana colleges and universities.

“It’s important that we get students engaged in the issues,” Mencacci said. “Within four years, we’ll be out in the workplace and these issues will be directly affecting us.”

UL System President Sally Clausen said students’ voting efforts are crucial because “if students vote, elected officials will listen to them. This is the way for young people to gain a voice in their future.”

She said these efforts are especially important because only 50 percent of 18-20 year olds and 47 percent of 21-34 year olds in Louisiana voted in the 2000 presidential election. “We think we can help increase those numbers.”

UL System student board member Katie Ortego said UL Lafayette students took a two-pronged approach to their student voter initiative – voter registration and voter education. The student government association will host a rally in a few weeks that will feature congressional candidates. “It’s an opportunity for students to ask questions about their issues directly to the candidates.”

Nicholls student Damian Breaux said he believes the issues important to students center on the economy and the war in Iraq. “Students want to know whether they’ll have jobs when they graduate. They want to know when their friends are coming home.”

Grambling student Martin Lemelle said, “I believe all students are concerned about job security and rising college costs. They want to know whether their financial aid and Pell Grants are secure.”

Heather Brandle of UL Monroe said students are facing many of the same issues of older Americans. “I see taxes as a big issue for students. Many are working to put themselves through college. They need every ounce of their paychecks, but they’re seeing pieces of their income cut out for taxes. That’s a big concern.”

Ashley McKee of Southeastern said the big issue is the economy. “We’re about to enter the workforce. We all want to be able to get that job we’ve been striving for.”

Still some students – many voting in their first election — are seeking advice on how to approach the issues. Mindy McConnell of Northwestern said she recommends that students think about how they feel about the issues and then seek information about each candidate’s position. “The people who are elected are going to be making decisions for us. This is our only chance to have our say.”

Michael Duff of McNeese said, “If we can get every young person to vote, we can really make a difference in this election.”

The UL System student leader voter registration efforts are part of a statewide initiative of the Council of Student Body Presidents.