Presidential candidates reveal vice presidents and educational plans

After months of hype, both Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D–Ill.) and Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R–Ariz.) have finally announced their running mates.

On Aug. 22, Obama announced that Sen. Joseph Biden (D–Del.) would be the Democratic vice presidential nominee. A week later on Aug. 29, McCain asked Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska to be his running mate. The decisions have been welcomed by college students as both candidate teams plan to reform the cost and accessibility to education.

Obama’s pick of Biden came as little surprise to most people. On the CNN Political Market, an online prediction market where users make bets about presidential politics, the posted odds of Obama picking Biden as his running mate were about 50 percent.

“Obama’s opponents always talk about his lack of experience,” said Joseph Lum, a first-year computer science major. “But Joe Biden may be able to make up for it.”
Lum noted that the Biden has held office in the United States Senate for almost 35 years.

Biden has racked up support from many educators and students.

While Biden was a low achiever in college, he was also the first in his family to attend.

His wife, Jill Biden, is also committed to the goals of education.

She has continued her job as a professor at the Delaware Technical Community College despite her husband’s Senate history and now presidential campaign. At the Democratic National Convention, the senator was introduced and officially nominated by fourth grade teacher Quincy Lucas, who is also a member of the National Educators Association (NEA).

Obama, however, had already done well with educators and students even before he chose Biden as his running mate. The senator received an endorsement from the NEA in July, and some of his staunchest supporters from the beginning of his campaign have been college students and employees.

According to Inside Higher Ed, a list of the 25 organizations whose employees gave the most to the Obama campaign included nine universities: the top five universities including the University of California, Harvard University, Columbia University, Stanford University, and the University of Michigan.

“Obama has gotten money from colleges because his policies are going to allow for more people to go to college,” speculated Gabby Moskowitz, a sophomore computer science major and a current intern for Sen. Hillary Clinton in Washington, D.C. “He remains a phenomenon among young people.”

Obama plans to create the new American Opportunity Tax Credit, which will ensure that the first $4000 of a college education is completely free for most Americans and will cover two-thirds of tuition costs at the average public college or full tuition at community colleges. He also aims to simplify the financial aid process by allowing individuals to check a box in their tax forms, instead of submitting a separate financial aid application to give the same information.

Palin came as an even greater surprise than Biden when McCain picked her as his running mate. On the CNN Political Market, she had only been given a just over 6 percent chance of getting the nomination, as opposed to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who had a nearly 70 percent chance.

While her critics cite her lack of experience, having served as governor for just two years, Palin brings a new perspective to the McCain campaign. As not only a woman, but also a little-known politician from the remote state of Alaska, she seems to challenge the stereotypical Washington politician. Yet Palin is known for her fierce competition — although technically a Republican, Palin is known for having attacked both Democrat and Republican politicians alike for corruption and ethics violations.

Palin and McCain plan to streamline the financial aid process, like Obama and Biden.

Palin’s personal history has specifically drawn her attention to special needs students. Her youngest son, Trig, has Down syndrome, and Palin has been very open with the media about the diagnosis.
In her acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, she stated, “To families of special needs children all across the country, I have a message.... I pledge to you that if we are elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House.”

As governor of Alaska, Palin has tripled her state’s special education budget.

“Many parents are asking for help, but they’ve not had many advocates in elected office to help them,” said first-year engineering major Yumin Wong, whose younger cousin has autism. “I think that Sarah Palin may change that.”

With just two months left until the elections, the candidates' policies and supporters may still change.