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Obama and Romney supporters assess the state of college students' future

By Joe PantornoEditor-in-Chief

On Tuesday night at Hofstra University, Adelphi student Jeremy Epstein brought the school's inhabitants front and center at the second presidential debate.

As debates have progressed over the years, we've seen college campuses become the epicenter of politics and news. Before Tuesday night, college students were pushed to the side as the topics of economy and healthcare took the nation's attention, as some say it deservedly should.

With the first question at the Mack Sports Complex, Epstein asked:

"Mr. President, Governor Romney, as a 20-year-old college student, all I hear from professors, neighbors and others is that when I graduate, I will have little chance to get employment. What can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?"

We saw President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney's answers to the questions; here is how some of Governor Romney and President Obama's supporters thought of the state of college students looking ahead.


Martin O'Malley, Gov. Maryland- "When I was running for re-election in Maryland, was that our highest polling issue with people over 65 was college affordability. I think you will definitely hear about college affordability if people are already through college, whether parents or grandparents, the likelihood is that they’re lending someone in their family money, paying for a grandkid, son or daughter to get through college. If people are coming out of high school and looking at college and wondering how on Earth they are going to pay for this and emerge and look for a job that they find personally fulfilling, without having those dreams crushed by doing another job just in order to pay back that college loan…I think it’s a very clear difference between these two candidates and which one’s on the side of the middle class. There is no greater policy or initiative in terms of generational prosperity that the President can take than to make college more affordable for more people."

Jim Messina, Obama Campaign Manager- "I think you saw a huge difference from college graduates tonight. I think the President answered directly on education and what his second term would look like. I mean, Pell grants versus Romney wanting to cut them, moving forward with jobs and healthcare; things college students care deeply about. I thought the contrast couldn’t be any deeper for us on that and I think we did ourselves a world of good tonight."

Charles Schumer, Sen. New York- "I thought it was great. It was my law that the President talked about that gives students the two, $2,500 tax deduction. Tax credit, families to pay for college and we fought hard to have it be middle class. It’s not renewed because Republicans opposed it."

Robert Gibbs, Former Obama White House Press Secretary- "I think that was a great first question. I think again the President outlined what kind of economy he wants Jeremy to walk out into; the fact that he wants Jeremy to borrow money to go to college. If people like Jeremy can’t go to college, it’s not just a loss for them, but it’s a loss for our country. I think college graduates and soon to be college graduates got a good chance to hear wants to do to make sure the economy is good when they get out."

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Chairman, Democratic National Convention- "I think President Obama made it really clear tonight that he has the students’ back. Whether it’s the focus on creating jobs for middle class and working families or backing up for a second and even looking at the opportunity for more young people to have a chance to go to college and get a college education and be economically successful and have that be more likely, that we’re all in this together and that we can be greater together. If we focus on middle class and working families, the policy the President put in place that you don’t have to pay any more than 10% of your income when you have to start paying back your student loans and then you contrast that with Mitt Romney’s plans with $5 trillion tax cuts which slashes education, could knock 100,000 students off their Pell grants, cut college aid, cuts health care, leaves young people out in the cold without any place to be able to put down their roots so they can get a firm basis to start their life."


George Pataki, Former Gov. New York- "I think it’s very, very difficult when private school tuition is $45,000 a year. I think we have the greatest higher education system in the world, but I think we do have to put pressure on some of the academic institutions to be aware. We want higher education to be an opportunity for everyone who is academically qualified. That has been one of the great testaments to this country and to our strength and we might want to make sure that we don’t lose that. "

John H. Sununu, Former Gov. New Hampshire- "Well, I certainly think it was smart politics on the candidates’ part. It is a big issue. I think the young people; particularly college graduates have been screwed by the Obama administration more than any other constituency. They’ve been forced to buy health insurance they don’t need or have their employer take two grand out of their paycheck and put it into health insurance. They have inherited, because of his [Obama’s] deficit, $50,000 to $300,000 more in taxes and they’re graduating and not finding jobs that are career oriented. So young people coming out and graduating have been screwed by the Obama administration and it was good to hear the specifics talked about tonight."

Ron Johnson, Sen. Wisconsin- "I think Gov. Romney is right that it is a tragedy that 50% of recent college graduates are either unemployed or not employed in their field. That is a direct result of the weakness of this economy. I graduated during Jimmy Carter’s malaise and there were jobs that were plentiful even in that malaise. That just underscores the difficulty that young people are having finding jobs. This recovery has not been as robust as it should be."

Rick Lazio, Former Congressman NY.- "If you’re a college graduate, you have to be in the Romney camp tonight. Number one, I understand what you’re going through, number two, we’re going to keep college affordable, we’re going to provide assistance through increased Pell grants for people going to college and most importantly, there is going to be a job for you when you get out. Nobody goes to college thinking when they get out, they’re going to be unemployed, or they’re going to be working part time, or they’re going to be working some service industry that they were not trained for. Unfortunately now, 50% of college-aged students are graduating without a job that is commensurate with their education, they’re unemployed completely or they’re sub-employed. What Gov. Romney said was I’ve got a plan to create seven million more jobs; I got a plan to expand the economy, to expand the economic pie. The more Americans and more college students working is going to be a very good thing. If you listen carefully to what’s at stake right now, do you really want to live at home after you graduate? Do you want to have a job? Do you want to be able to afford things? What he [Obama] basically promised was four more years like the past four years."

Ed Mangano, Nassau County Executive- "This is a topic that concerns every parent, certainly a topic that concerns our students. The access of a higher education, an affordable education is being made tougher and tougher for families. If you look at the direction of community college, the competition to get into community college is so great because the fees are so reduced that it’s concerning. It’s concerning that students that really want to go to an institution of higher learning like Hofstra are not able to afford it. So it’s a very important question. It goes along with taxes; it goes along with job creation and opportunity for students that are studying. Where will they be able to find jobs that they are studying for? So this is a very important election. Two candidates with very different policies."

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