There is no question that this election will be the most important in our lifetimes.
The individual who will sit in the oval office for the next four years will face unprecedented challenges and will need to design strategic, attainable, and bipartisan solutions to the problems, which threaten our country’s future. As student voters, it is our responsibility to become familiar with the platforms both candidates have put forward, most importantly relating to education and health care in order to make informed decisions on Nov. 6.
To put things into perspective, a 2010 Newsweek report weighed education, health care, quality of life, economic dynamism and political climate — and ranked the United States as the No. 11 best country in the world, trailing Luxembourg, Canada, and Japan. In order to have a healthy country, the people of that country must be equally healthy.
Health is not just a moral, social, physical or economic issue — it is an issue of national well-being. Education is likewise not only beneficial for the student looking to find a job, but an educated country is far more prepared to face the harsh realities of a struggling economy.
As the number of Americans going to college increases, so do the costs, and the financial burdens of attaining a degree.
This is a direct result of supply and demand – with limited supply of spots at top schools, institutions may increase tuition rates unchecked.
Fortunately, for us, this is not the case at Penn State, recently having the lowest percentage increase in 45 years. Nevertheless, the average debt for graduating seniors in 2011 was $26,600, which is up 5 percent from the previous year, according to a Fox News article.
A 5 percent increase in one year is astonishing; bank accounts do not increase by that amount year-over-year at the average rate of return on savings. Conversely, interest rates for loans continue to rise and came close to doubling last summer, adding to the crippling tuition rates across the country.
Congress voted to provide $6.7 billion to prevent a 3.4 percent increase in interest rates, saving students approximately $1,000 a year on Stafford loans, according to a Forbes article. Pell grants are currently awarded to 58 percent of all undergraduate students in the U.S, which has seen a significant increase in the past few years as well, according to the student aid website.
Both President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney have outlined plans to revitalize education in the United States.
Romney favors adopting a voucher system for K-12 schools, enabling parents greater choice in where they send their children. He also has said, contrary to his earlier positions, as well as the Wis. Representative Ryan budget plan, that the cap for Pell grants should rise at the rate of inflation rather than be capped at $5,550.
Already Obama signed a law that forgives debt after 20 years and sets an interest cap of 10 percent for many students with federal loans.
Additionally, Obama wants to remove banks from the student loan system, while Romney wants to see an increased role for banks in the federal student loan market. In 2010, the U.S. spent $8,362 per capita on health expenditures, more than any other country in the world, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
What do we have to show for it?
The highest obesity rate in the world, the highest percentage of woman on antidepressants in the world, and over 50.7 million Americans without health coverage not including the underinsured, according to the Huffington Post.
Both candidates are hoping to increase access and quality while decreasing the cost of providing care, but what will be sacrificed in the process is the important question that must be asked.
This summer the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, which greatly impacts college students. Fifty-thousand students ages 19 to 24 would be among the newly eligible, according to Nation of Change.
The ACA will enable students to remain on their parents health insurance plan until age 26, increase eligibility to all individuals living under 133 percent of the FPL for Medicaid, and remove annual and lifetime caps, according to Families USA.
Mitt Romney hopes to repeal the ACA and empower states to create sustainable systems that serve the needs of their communities. This plan shifts substantial risk to the states in creating, maintaining, and funding viable health care options, while cutting the overall amount of support for Medicaid.
These core differences in the vision for the future of health care and education have a direct effect on your lives.
We do not need political bantering; we need a substantive understanding of critical policies and their implications for our country.
It does not stop with healthcare and education, but these two topics are the most crucial and fundamental factors in determining the overall well-being of our country.
This election will determine much more than just who sits in the oval office for the next four years. It will determine our outlook at becoming the number one country in the world.
While this only scratches the surface on the issue, we hope this encourages you to take a serious look at the policies being presented by both candidates and those being pursued in Congress.
John Zang is a senior majoring in international politics and is the UPUA Chief of Staff. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter Khoury is a senior majoring in health policy and administration and is the Board of Trustees student member. Email him at email@example.com