Obama administration sets sights on student voters for re-election campaign

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Jason DeFillippo/Creative Commons/Courtesy

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As the 2012 United States presidential election nears, the Obama administration is setting its sights on convincing young voters to return to the polls.

Obama for America Senior Strategist David Axelrod said in a conference call Monday that the administration has been working to fund public universities and cut higher education costs, all the while calling on younger voters for support in the president’s re-election campaign.

The conference call — held with representatives from college newspapers around the country — is part of the Obama administration’s efforts to reach out to younger voters. In the coming weeks, members of the administration will hold 10 “summits” at swing-state college campuses.

Young voters were key to President Barack Obama’s victory in 2008. Voters between the ages of 18 and 29 preferred Obama to John McCain by 68 percent to 30 percent, according to exit polls.

Axelrod said the University of California has helped put the state on “the cutting edge” of innovation. He lamented recent tuition increases at public universities, calling them “astronomical.”

“The University of California was a showcase for the world in terms of public education, and … it has been painful to watch the cuts that have been made over the years to that system,” he said. “When we cut our public university systems, we are cutting the lifeblood of the economy.”

The administration plans to work with public universities to increase funding and efficiency, he added.

In January, Obama rolled out his “Blueprint for Keeping College Affordable and Within Reach for All Americans,” a plan that proposes increasing campus-based aid to colleges by $10 billion annually and increasing or decreasing funding based on college affordability and value to students.

“Universities have to look at their budgets and make some decisions about what is needed and what is not,” Axelrod said. “You can be very zealously pro-public higher education and still be sensible about how we spend that money.”

He added that the administration has taken steps to help college students through the Affordable Care Act, signed into law in March 2010. The act could potentially save college students money on insurance by allowing them to remain under their parents’ health care coverage until the age of 26.

Photo: Jason DeFillippo/Creative Commons

Damian Ortellado is the lead higher education reporter.