Democratic gubernatorial candidate Virg Bernero has consistently demonstrated his support for the interests of Michigan’s young people. With a wife who serves as an elementary school principal and two daughters who attend public universities, the challenges of underfunded public schools and rising tuition costs directly impact his everyday life. This elevated consciousness of the condition of our state’s educational system has become the foundation of his campaign platform.

“Education is economic development,” Bernero likes to remind his audiences as he travels around the state. Such a seemingly simple observation embodies a much deeper and highly crucial understanding of the need to improve Michigan’s educational opportunities. By adopting this phrase as his campaign slogan, Bernero is simultaneously making a promise to students that he will invest in education.

Bernero realizes that Michigan’s educational system has the potential not only to improve the futures of the young people who participate in it, but also restore Michigan’s economic prosperity. The strength of this conviction translates into his support for university students and his desire to provide them with tools for success.

Specifically, Bernero would like to empower students by making higher education more affordable. Many students are concerned about falling education appropriations coupled with drastically rising tuition. Bernero wants to fight to keep tuition down and financial aid up because he understands the realities of a knowledge-based economy.

Bernero has promised state universities a fair, stable and predictable revenue stream in exchange for a tuition freeze. This will allow the University to maintain a quality education experience that students are able to afford. He will keep the broken Michigan Promise Scholarship, a $4,000 grant for high-achieving in-state students that had its funding taken away by lawmakers in the state Senate.

When Republican Rick Snyder speaks about education, he approaches the topic with the stance that our system needs to be “more efficient.” Efficiency sounds nice, but its implications are grave. Efficiency essentially means that he wants schools to do more with less. It means that if Snyder wins the governorship, it’s possible that he will support lowering the University’s appropriations with the hopes of incentivizing a reduction of spending.

Faced with that scenario, what would the University decide to do? Would it begin cutting the programs that make it one of the highest ranked public schools in the nation? Or would it raise tuition even higher in order to make up for its insufficient state appropriations? Either way, we’ll have to sacrifice either the quality of our education or its affordability, both of which hurt students. If Snyder is elected, he could cripple our education system even further. Without investment in education, the state will have no chance to build a 21st-century economy.

Bernero will serve student interests by furthering his record for job creation and bringing new business investment to Michigan. As mayor of Lansing, he has leveraged more than half a billion dollars in new business investment, which has resulted in over 6,000 new jobs. Recently, Lansing was named a top ten city for young people to live – largely due to its expanding job market.

In addition to his proven ability to work with businesses to bring jobs to the state, Bernero has also proposed creating a state bank. This innovative proposal would ensure that Michigan businesses have access to credit and that they are able to reinvest their profits here in the state. Over the long term, a state bank would help build a better business environment and incentivize increased economic development.

Finally, though both Snyder and Bernero have largely ignored party labels during their campaigns, it’s important to remember each party’s traditional values. This is especially important given the lack of policy specifics offered by the Snyder campaign. Year after year, Democrats in Lansing have fought to prevent or minimize cuts to public universities and student financial aid. Sadly, Republicans — for whom it seems no amount of cuts to public services will ever be sufficient — have repeatedly outmaneuvered them. In light of this reality, sending anyone who is dependent on support from the Republican establishment – with its strong party discipline – is a risk that students cannot afford to take.

The election today presents a clear choice for those concerned about education. Students and those who value the success of our state’s economic future should think twice before sending Rick Snyder to Lansing. Only with Virg Bernero will the state keep its promise of affordable, accessible and quality education for all.

Polls are open today from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Polling locations can be found at http://michigan.gov/vote. Make sure your voice is heard today.

Brendan Campbell is the chair of the University’s chapter of the College Democrats.

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