2012 election offers easy choice: Vote Obama

_Editor’s Note: College Democrats at the University will contribute a weekly column Tuesdays until the presidential election in November._

As rain seemingly washes away summer and the calendar rolls to September, November’s presidential election draws ever nearer. Students have a clear choice in the election, and they can either vote for an incumbent president who has fought for their interests at every turn or a wealthy venture capitalist who is insensitive to the needs of college students.

Here’s what Gov. Mitt Romney had to say about the rising cost of college at a town hall meeting this March in Ohio: “If you (students) can’t afford it, scholarships are available, shop around for loans, make sure you go to a place that’s reasonably priced.” Despite tuition increases, Illinois remains one of the best public education values in the nation, but the average student graduates with about $21,000 in debt.

Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, proposed a budget in the House that would cut more than $200 billion from the Pell grants, which could affect more than 1 million students across the country. A “November 2011 Daily Illini article”:https://www.dailyillini.com/index.php/article/2011/11/pell_grant_elimination_may_increase_student_debt noted that the University’s students received more than $27 million from the Pell grant program, with more than 400,000 students across the state using the grants.

Crippling that program would put the University out of reach for more and more students, and a University that can’t take the best and brightest but only the wealthiest is obviously weaker overall.

President Obama signed a bill that reforms student loans: In 2014, new rules will come into effect that require any outstanding student loan debt to be forgiven after 20 years and after 10 years if you become a public servant. Also in 2014, new student loan payments will be capped at 10 percent of disposable income — allowing new graduates to get on their feet wet without massive payments hanging around their necks.

The president has also been a consistent advocate for equal rights for all citizens. He signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which ensures that women receive equal pay when they perform the same jobs that men do.

That’s the kind of common sense reform that Republicans like Ryan have opposed, when he voted against it in the House in 2009 according to the nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank OpenCongress, which records Congressional voting records. President Obama repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which prevented gays from serving openly. Ryan voted to keep that rule in place according to OpenCongress, as well as indicated his support for an amendment to the Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman, according to a 2006 press release from his office on Capitol Hill. Backward social policies don’t fit with the open, welcoming and inclusive views of this University and its students.

I was a passionate supporter of the president in 2008 and continue to be one today. It’s true that the economy hasn’t recovered quickly, but it’s important to keep in mind that over the last 30 months of his presidency, more than 4.5 million private sector jobs have been added. A return to the failed policies of President Bush would be catastrophic for the economy. There’s a reason that Romney didn’t mention him once in his speech at the Republican National Convention.

The choice for students couldn’t be clearer. President Obama stands with us to move the country forward.

_Owen Marsden,_

_Graduate student in LER and board member of College Democrats_