THE BLOG

Students Are Voting Again to Build a Movement

08/25/2010 12:49 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Students are voting again in 2010 because we're building a movement. This movement did not begin with the 2008 vote campaign, and it certainly did not end with the election of Barack Obama. It is a movement to make education a right and has been a driving force behind social progress for decades. We are fortunate enough to be organizing in a time of great opportunity and have capitalized on the leadership of President Obama and members of Congress. The passage of student financial aid reform, the biggest investment in higher education since the GI bill, is a testament to this. However, we are simply passing through one era of this movement and have a responsibility as organizers to build upon past victories. We are voting again, not just to elect members of Congress who will champion higher education causes, but also to construct a more perfect framework of student activism that will lead to students winning on issues directly affecting young people.

This is no lofty goal born of soaring but empty rhetoric. The 2010 election provides us with a strategic moment to make vast strides in the student movement. A strong foundation of grassroots organizing was laid during the 2008 election which was then utilized to mobilize young people around student aid reform, protesting budget cuts and tuition hikes, and making huge advancements for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. These efforts amplified the student voice worldwide and won some key victories in college affordability. The momentum from those campaigns must now be carried forward to the 2010 election so that additional victories will be won in 112th Congress.

We are continuing our vote work for the new batch of young voters as well. There are around 9.5 million eligible voters today who were too young to vote in 2008, and during such a tight election, each new voter can make a huge difference. Additionally, it is well-known that those who vote early continue to be civically engaged throughout their lives. So by engaging, educating, registering, and turning these new students out to vote, we are helping to cultivate a new generation of organizers.

We are organizing to vote again because, when we don't, candidates simply ignore young people. The 2009 New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial elections clearly showed that candidates don't address youth issues if they are not forced to. There are too many important issues facing students both immediately and in the long-term health of the country's education system to allow candidates to ignore us. Two-thirds of students are forced to take out loans to pay for college, driving the average borrower nearly $25,000 into debt. That is on top of youth, especially youth of color, suffering from an unemployment rate much higher than the national average. Undocumented students are still being denied their right to a higher education because of partisan bickering. More than 30 states cut higher education budgets last year and 30 will do it again this year. These are issues we have to force candidates to address if we want to change them.

We are in the midst of a student movement to make education a right, and we are voting and organizing in 2010 to ensure that the pathway before us continues to lead us towards that ultimate vision.