At the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Wednesday, President Clinton did a better job of bringing the crowd to its feet than the Charlotte Bobcats have ever done. One of the several points he emphasized is that we are currently living in “decade in which exploding college costs have increased the dropout rate so much that we’ve fallen to 16th in the world in the percentage of our young adults with college degrees.”
Coleman Elridge, 30, who works as an executive assistant for the governor of Kentucky, noted before the speech that he hoped the former president would talk about education. “Education was the tool that let me know I can be successful, and so many folks don’t have that opportunity … and some folks want to take that away.”
President Clinton went on to explain that through education, more young people can find jobs. “We do need more new jobs, lots of them, but there are already more than three million jobs open and unfilled in America today, mostly because the applicants don’t have the required skills,” he said.
Graduating college and getting a job is certainly something young people are concerned about. A recent study from Harvard’s Institute of Politics showed that by overwhelming numbers, young people care most about creating jobs and lowering the unemployment rate.
Benjamin Chou, 21, a senior at Rice University in Houston, Texas, hoped that Clinton would also talk about “student loan problems, student debts and college tuition costs.”
The former president tackled this head-on, spending considerable time in his speech on the topic, saying, “The president’s student-loan reform lowers the cost of federal student loans and even more important, gives students the right to repay the loans as a fixed percentage of their incomes for up to 20 years. That means no one will have to drop out of college for fear they can’t repay their debt, and no one will have to turn down a job as a teacher, a police officer or a small-town doctor because it doesn’t pay enough to make the debt payments.”
For 20-year-old Nathan Davis, a delegate from Maine studying politics and Chinese at Bates College, Clinton’s emphasis on President Obama’s student-loan reforms was particularly relevant.
“In my freshman year of college, my mom lost her job,” Davis, now a junior, explained. “What I really like about Barack Obama as a president is his stance on helping college students out with affordable college. I’ve been lucky to have a college that really supported me throughout this time so my mom paid basically nothing for me to go to college for a while. What helped me pull that off was the Pell Grants and the Stafford loans that are subsidized for me. So when I do get out of school, I’ll have the ability to find the best job for me and pay that back at my own pace within the first 10 years of getting out of college. And I won’t just be crushed by debt when I’m first trying to start my life.”
Hundreds if not thousands of millennials in the house in Charlotte on Wednesday were clearly moved by President Clinton’s speech. They cheered loudest when Clinton said that President Obama’s positions on many education issues would “change the future for young Americans.”