A big theme theme of Tuesday night’s Democratic Convention speeches, college access and affordability, continued Wednesday afternoon as a battery of speakers extolled the virtues of President Barack Obama’s actions to widen higher education opportunities at the Democratic National Committee Youth Council.
The council, which consists of Democrats under age 36, heard from Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden and a teacher at a Virginia community college, and others who stressed that young people, particularly those who are the first in their families to go to college, should be freed to pursue their ambitions instead of crushed by debt and blocked by barriers to college.
Recall that last week in Tampa, my colleague Alyson Klein wrote a blog item about the Washington-based Young Invincibles, a nonprofit, non-partisan group seeking to expand opportunities for younger Americans, and an event they held at the Republican Convention. According to Alyson’s count, there was only one self-identified Republican in attendance.
Noting that many African-Americans, Latinos and students from the “wrong side of town” are unaware of why college is an option for them, or told that it isn’t realistic, the DNC’s senior advisor for Hispanic affairs, Juan Sepulveda, told the council, “It killed me how many times we are still hearing those stories.”
Sepulveda, who was told twice by his high school guidance counselor that the colleges and graduate schools he wanted to attend were beyond his reach, hailed San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro’s efforts to broaden educational access, a topic Castro stressed heavily in his Tuesday keynote.
Referencing Barack and Michelle Obama as well as herself and her husband, Biden told the council that none of them could have attended college without school loans and grants. But she tacked on a cautionary note that even for Pell Grant and other aid recipients, they still were responsible for their own success: “You still have to earn that GPA. You still, in many cases, have to work.”