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OPINION: With Bernie’s Exit Amid a Pandemic, College Choices Get Tougher

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This fall, when the 2020 presidential election ends, I will be a senior in high school, milling endlessly over what college I want to attend — and how much it will cost to get there. For me, Bernie Sanders’ win in that election would have been a major factor on whether I would make the frugal choice, or the brave choice. 

With him now out of the race and a pandemic straining the country’s economy (and therefore my parents’ pockets), it will be significantly harder to go to the college of my dreams.

Children are dying, single mothers are being laid off, and minimum wage workers are being shoved out of their apartments. Yet, there I was last month, crying like a baby when I got the Twitter notification that Sanders had suspended his campaign. And while my melodramatic cry while sitting in my room with a bathroom attached in a quarter of a million-dollar house might seem like an exaggerated response, this is going to be a reality for a lot of middle class kids. The ones who were once excited about jumping off the launch pad of financial security and parental comfort, are now trembling at the thought of having to enter the world as an adult in the state of this country.

Flashback to 2008

I still hear the horror stories about the recession of 2008 when wages were slashed, leaving only fractions of what people used to make. My mother was a retail manager at Gymboree (who may have also been their number one customer with both a six-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son) and my father was a fresh-faced reporter at a local newspaper. Although they were self-proclaimed adults, they were still probably figuring out how to “adult” properly. The recession hit my family pretty hard, with my dad receiving a pay cut and my mom being laid off. So now, when watching the news with my dad, I could almost see the flashbacks in his eyes when the news lady said the word “recession.”

In a 2019 debate Bernie Sanders admitted that under his policies the middle-class would have to pay more in taxes, but it will be off set with universal health care and free college. As someone raised in the middle class and entering the world as a broke college student in 2021, that was exactly what I wanted to hear. While Georgia’s HOPE scholarship certainly would help with college, as someone who wants to go outside of Georgia, HOPE offers me nothing. With Sanders out of the 2020 race and now with a fragile economy, my choices have slimmed significantly.

A Passionate Message

Apart from my own interest in Sanders’ proposed policies, his campaign was refreshing. Having a candidate with such a consistent, passionate message made me realize that politics didn’t have to be a rich white man’s game. It could be something everybody could get behind. Seeing my peers support a candidate that they believed in encouraged me to do the same. It made me get invested in politics in a way I never really was before. 

Before I supported Sanders the politician, I supported Sanders the person. But like most of America, upon learning his politics, I was skeptical. Being someone who grew up in a strictly suburban existence, I didn’t know where I landed in terms of Sanders’ plan to “eat the rich.” While I was by no means rich, I grew up with privilege that has gotten me into places and given me opportunities that my lower-class relatives might not have been offered. 

I’m Still One of the Lucky Ones

Sanders, while not perfect, taught me how to fight for people not lucky enough to have the problems I have. People who can’t afford to send their children to college. Minimum wage workers who are living paycheck to paycheck (while responsible for student loans). Essential workers who are risking their lives every day in this pandemic. 

While I cry about my woes, I realize I am not the real loser in any of this. To any teen out there, who was depending on a Sanders’ win, I’m sorry that this country continues to fail you. However, it is our job, especially in times like this, to advocate for a better America. 

Raising Our Voices Still Matters

While our generation is often times pessimistic about the future, we must not let that pessimism result in us not voting. As first-time voters, we finally have the chance to control our futures. And, I for one, do not want to live through another hellish four years of a second Donald Trump presidential term. 

While voting may seem pointless, especially when our voices are so often shut out of the media, and shunned by adults, voting gives us an undeniable power that we must put to use.

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