This story was written by Editorial Board, Columbia Daily Spectator
Facing two wars, an uncertain economy, and heightened fears about the effects of global warming, the nation's next president could fundamentally alter the future of the United States. Myriad factors affect one's vote in a presidential election, and media outlets with broader scope have endorsed candidates through the national lens. As the voice of a college newspaper, this Board sought to focus on issues that more exclusively affect students. Largely because of forward-looking platforms that directly benefit our generation both now and after we graduate, Senator Barack Obama is the best choice to become the next president of the United States.
Today's average student graduates with substantial debt and enters an increasingly dim job market. While both candidates have spoken about reforming the complex financial aid system, Obama's proposals are most likely to make college more affordable. One of Obama's proposals more creative proposals is to award students $4,000 of education credit in exchange for 100 hours of community service. Though it is unclear how the government would pay for this initiative and who would qualify, the proposal nonetheless stands as a testament to Obama's innovative style of thinking and his awareness of the challenges facing college students.
Obama's support for the expansion of the GI Bill would also make college education more affordable for our generation's veterans, a number of whom find themselves drawn to Columbia's School of General Studies, which was founded in part to accommodate the influx of students going to college on the original GI Bill. Senator John McCain has opposed the bill, citing retention problems and arguing that it would discourage service members from becoming noncommissioned officers. While McCain may have raised valid concerns on this point, the GI Bill would allow a majority of veterans to advance their education.
Obama's platform acknowledges the importance of scientific research, an area where McCain and the Republican Party have lagged. There can be little doubt that President George W. Bush's conservative policies have adversely affected scientific research at the nation's universities. While some Republicans are hostile to the theory of evolution, stem cell research, and combating climate change, Obama's proposal to double scientific research funding would help make up for lost progress. In addition to ensuring funding for master's and Ph.D candidates, money for scientific innovation will help attract and adequately host the brightest minds from around the world. McCain, whose platform on technology relies primarily on tax cuts, has not sufficiently demonstrated how his own policies would differ from those of President Bush, or how his proposed freeze on spending would affect funding for research.
With regard to the much harped-on issue of taxes, neither candidate's policy is perfect, but many Columbia families could benefit from Obama's proposed tax cuts. Obama's proposed plan will cut taxes for 95 percent of American families and increase taxes for those making over $250,000 per year. However, because upper-middle-class families cannot take advantage of financial aid, an increased tax burden on top of college costs means certain families might face unforeseen challenges in paying for college. But McCain's tax plans would primarily benefit the wealthy without aiding the large majority of America's families. If President Bush's tax cuts were made permanent, as McCain proposes, upper-middle-class families may not find themselves struggling with college expenses, but the majority of middle- and working-class families would continue to struggle.
In a flagging economy, both candidates will inevitably be forced to set aside some of their proposals, and neither has been forthcoming about which programs wil be pushed to the backburner. Nonetheless, there is a marked difference in the way their plans address the needs of college students. Though his proposals are by no means flawless, Obama's platform provides the most benefits to Columbia students today and tomorrow.