If there’s anything Democratic students on campus can agree on, it’s that President Bush needs to go and tuition is too high.

Angela Cesere
Sen. Debbie Stabenow told College Democrats yesterday that Congress needs to increase state aid to colleges and universities. Congress passed a large expansion of student aid earlier this month. (KELLYN JACKSON/Daily)

As they pumped up one of the University’s largest student groups for the upcoming presidential election, several state Democratic leaders said just that yesterday.

The speakers, all from Michigan, were Sen. Debbie Stabenow, House Reps. John Dingell, John Conyers and Mark Brewer, executive chair of the Michigan Democratic Party. They spoke at the College Democrats’ first meeting of the semester – a meeting that Chair Sam Harper said was aimed at telling students they can make a difference in 2008.

“Students are the most apathetic group of voters,” Harper said in an interview yesterday. “A lot of it is that they don’t see how their vote will translate into action. These speakers prove that that’s not the case.”

But college students in the state of Michigan – at least from the Democratic side of the aisle – likely won’t play as large a role as they have in previous elections.

All of the Democratic presidential candidates have said they will not campaign in Michigan because of a bill Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed that moved the date of the Michigan primary forward to Jan. 15. Party rules forbid all states except South Carolina, Nevada, New Hampshire and Iowa from staging a primary before Feb. 5.

Some Republicans have said they will continue campaigning in the state. While the Democratic National Committee threatened to strip Michigan of all of its delegates from the party’s nominating convention if the primary is held on Jan. 15, the Republican National Committee has said it will only remove half of the state’s delegates.

Harper said the group is working to bring a Democratic candidate to the University, though.

“If we can’t get a candidate to come to campus, hopefully a high-profile spokesperson will come in their place,” Harper said.

Harper said the group’s primary goal is to work toward a Democratic victory in the presidential election in November 2008.

“People think that it’s easy for the Democrats to win the election,” Harper said. “It’s not a sure thing. We need to build a strong coalition on campus to achieve our goals.”

The College Democrats have several events planned this year to mobilize students on campus. They will head a rally in Lansing on Sept. 26 to lobby for an increase in state funding for the University. The group also plans to register students to vote before the Jan. 15 primary.

Stabenow spent most of her speech talking about the importance of electing a Democrat to the White House in the 2008 presidential election. Although Stabenow endorsed New York Sen. Hillary Clinton on Saturday for the Democratic nomination, she said she would support any Democrat in the general election.

“Anyone on our side is head and shoulders above what happened in the last six and a half years,” she said.

Dingell, the longest-serving member of Congress, concurred.

“I hope the next time I come here we can say ‘By golly, we did it. We gave them the licking of their life,’ ” Dingell said.

In addition to discussing the upcoming presidential election, speakers at the meeting addressed the rising cost of tuition.

Brewer spoke about yesterday’s state House session in Lansing, where lawmakers grappled to settle the state’s budget crisis by the time the 2008 fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

“The Democrats are fighting there right now to make sure institutions like this are properly funded,” Brewer said.

Stabenow also stressed the need for an increase in federal funding to public universities.

Congress approved earlier this month a Stabenow-sponsored bill that would increase funding for college aid by $20 billion nationwide. Stabenow said the bill is the largest legislative investment in higher education since the G.I. Bill.

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