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Denée Reaves’s Blog

Youth Vote on Education and Environment

Denée Reaves

Posted December 4, 2012

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It is common thought nowadays that youth today are self absorbed and not involved in the important happenings of our country, but the 2012 election helped dispel that myth. Youth voters like me made our voices heard by coming out in droves to vote. Young voters accounted for the highest percentage of people voting for the Obama Administration compared to any other age group. This generation, called the Millennials, paid very close attention to this year’s candidates’ position on issues and actions backing up their claims for change. Two of the most important issues for us this election were affordable education and a better environment. These two issues are deeply intertwined. More and more colleges and universities are offering environmental studies as a major, and students are responding well. Millennials care about what actions are being taken in regards to our environment, and they are not just voting for people they believe can make a difference, but are actively pursuing ways they can make a difference as well.

Out of four age brackets represented, 60% of the 18-29 age group voted to re-elect President Obama, which is 8% more than the next closest  group (30-44) and 16% more than the furthest  group (65 and older). This vote made a difference in the outcome of the election.  Recent polls by Generation Opportunity, a nonprofit non-partisan organization focused on the 18-29 age group, show that the majority of Millenials’ votes were determined by a candidate’s good record in office and clear stance on issues as opposed to charisma, character and political party.

The first issue of high importance to us this election was education and how we, as students, can afford it. The Obama administration has an educational record that strives to help students financially toward their goal. In the previous term, the President raised the maximum of Pell Grant awards to $5,635 for the 2013-2014 award years, representing a $905 increase since 2008. Furthermore, the number of Grant recipients increased by 50% during that time, allowing millions of low-income and middle class students across the country access to higher education. The administration’s biggest achievement concerning the Pell Grant is showcased in the “Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010” which re-allocated over $60 billion in savings back to students by ending student loan subsidies for private financial institutions and banks. This administration has also championed science and technology programs, making them a priority through different initiatives. One such initiative was the national challenge to prepare 100,000 proficient Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) teachers, eliciting the help of the Department of Education by asking them for $80 million to support effective teaching preparation programs. These STEM initiatives also hope to foster one million additional degrees over the next decade.

What does this push for affordable education and STEM degrees mean for the environmental world? Quite a lot, actually.  Environmental studies are becoming more and more common as a major in many colleges and universities. Tree Hugger website published an article on the top 10 best college environmental programs in the US stating that “Every year, the number of green college programs--and the number of students enrolled in them--rises, as careers in environmental policy, sustainability, law, and management become more common.” US News also named Environmental Studies the third major out of nine with a promising future.

Our generation’s interest in our environment is not only displayed in our educational pursuits, however. 71% of Millennials believe that America’s energy policies need to focus on developing alternative energy sources rather than continuing on our path with oil, coal and natural gas. 64% of us also see clear evidence that the earth is getting warmer due to human effects on climate change. The Obama administration’s encouragement of degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math will result in innovative new technology that hopefully will help us to protect and preserve our environment while still having access to the energy we need.

The track record of the Obama administration leaves us hopeful that a focus on education will continue in this new term. Furthermore his repeated assurances that he will engage in developing renewable energy, and his climate change mention in his acceptance speech, has us looking for new policies geared toward a sustainable future. Youth made a clear decision this election and will be looking forward to the Obama administration continuing on their affordable education path and becoming a champion for policies supporting clean energy and combating climate change.  

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Comments

Adreanne StephensonDec 5 2012 01:10 PM

This is a very great article and I completely agree that sustainability has increased phenomenal in many aspects of academia. It is important that Millennials focus on reversing the detriment that human pollution has left the Earth's atmosphere in. We want generations to have an opportunity to live and must all work together incrementally to produce monumental change. Our generation is not lazy. It is hardworking and dealing with challenges much different than past generations. However, I am hopeful that with increased technology and great leaders in government, Change is Coming.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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