For Penn State students, this election comes down to the numbers.
Underneath all of the flowery rhetoric, the shouts of "Change," "Hope," "Country First," and "Yes, we can," there are some clear differences between this year's presidential candidates, Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain.
And when you add up those differences, one candidate comes out ahead on the issues that matter most to students: Barack Obama.
Take taxes, for example. Despite McCain's claims that Obama would raise your taxes, nearly all students would pay less under Obama's plan. Whether you're a freshman just beginning your college career or a senior about to enter the job market, you will see more tax relief with Obama's plan -- unless you're planning on making a starting salary of more than $100,000 per year.
McCain wants to focus on keeping college costs low, but we haven't seen any ideas from his campaign that will make a real difference. Obama, in contrast, would allocate more funds directly to students to make college more affordable.
Specifically, Obama would provide a $4,000 tax credit per year to students who agree to perform an annual 100 hours of community service during their college career.
While we're skeptical that the service requirement could be adequately enforced, Obama's approach is much more likely than McCain's to provide real savings to students.
Both candidates have failed to fully explain how they would balance the federal budget amid costly tax cuts and increased spending. McCain's main proposal to address this problem, a spending freeze, sounds like a good idea in theory, but our country faces a number of problems that need government action now.
In addition, Obama's proposed investments in areas such as alternative energy would help America stay competitive in a global economy. McCain's spending plan for clean energy research is more focused than Obama's, emphasizing clean coal and nuclear energy.
He has proposed less spending than Obama for emerging fields such as wind and solar energy, but this approach is misguided when the need for energy independence is greater than ever.
Obama also has the more serious and comprehensive plan to confront climate change, an issue that is of great concern to our generation.
On the topic of health care, both candidates' plans could benefit students.
If you're covered by your parents' employers' plan or have a plan of your own, McCain's proposed health insurance tax credit may make it cheaper for you to get the care you need.
However, if you're uninsured and unable to afford health care, Obama's plan has a heavy focus on expanding coverage for the uninsured. Regardless of a specific student's situation, though, we favor Obama's plan because we, as a country, have an obligation to ensure every American has access to healthcare.
When it comes to foreign policy, Obama's charisma would be a valuable asset. More than any specific policy, Obama's fresh, open-minded reputation would increase the United States' standing in the world and encourage other countries to work with us during future foreign policy actions.
But Obama has the best policy plans, too.
The Iraqi government has voiced support for a gradual withdrawal of troops from Iraq, which Obama has said he would work to achieve.
Also, his willingness to embrace diplomacy, while worrisome to neo-conservatives, is necessary given the current strain on the United States' fiscal and military resources.
In terms of executive experience, both senators are untested, so we must look to their campaigns for guidance about their judgment. Obama, though acking in years, has displayed an even-tempered approach during the long campaign season, often declining to take cheap shots or act rashly.
A president also needs to act as a unifying figure across partisan lines and across borders and must be willing to admit mistakes and take steps to fix them.
While McCain's character is certainly admirable, his vice presidential choice and polarizing rhetoric make us skeptical that he would be willing to make such compromises.
Even considering all the facts, many of the issues in this election come down to moral judgment calls.
If you object to progressive tax policies or expanded government social services, McCain may be the better choice.
Also, if social issues such as abortion are critically important to you, you should consider both candidates' stances on Supreme Court appointees. Given the division of opinion, we declined to take a stance in this area.
Whoever wins this election, Obama will have made a profound impact on our demographic's participation in politics.
And the impact he's made thus far indicates that he is the best choice to bring about positive change on the issues students care about.