Concern about paying for college should be one of the main reasons people come out to the polls Tuesday, according to pollster Celinda Lake.
Lake, the president of Lake Research Partners, a public opinion research center based out of Washington, D.C., said affordable education is the No. 1 issue on the minds of 80 percent of voters aged 18 to 30.
“College affordability is the main reason for motivating young voters to come out and vote,” she said Tuesday during a phone conference sponsored by the National Association of State Public Information Research Groups.
Luke Swarthout of NASPIRG said he had hoped higher education would have taken a more prominent role in the midterm elections.
“We keep hearing about Iraq and the war on terrorism which are both important,” he said. “But there is a huge gap between what people are hearing and what they want to hear.”
Lake also said she believes the issue hasn’t been discussed enough, but isn’t surprised that it’s not a high priority with candidates.
“Higher education funding hasn’t been used by the candidates as much as it could have been,” she said. “But, there is a question about how galvanized young people will be this time around.”
Young voters aren’t the only ones looking for more information on the issue. Seventy percent of all voters said they haven’t heard enough about higher education this election and two-thirds believe the government is doing too little in regards to higher education, according to Lake.
College Board, a non-profit membership group aimed at educating people about college opportunities, found that the cost of college at four-year public universities has risen 35 percent since 2001.
David Hicks, a 37-year-old parent of two from Evanston, Ind., hopes a change is near.
“Something needs to be done,” he said. “If I stay with the current plan on my student loans, they will be paid off when I’m 54. I want to pay for my kids college, too, but at this pace I don’t know if I can.”
Lake said it’s going to take effort by the voters for a difference to be made.
“Voters are going to have to look behind the attack ads and find information on candidates’ higher education records,” she said. “And once they take office, the public needs to stay active.”
Staff writer Jack Genadek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.