In 2004, about 11.6 million Americans under the age of 25 voted, an increase of about three million compared to the previous election (pdf). Although they broke for John Kerry at the end, young voters were up for grabs, divided about equally among Republicans, Democrats, and independents. Kerry and Bush traded the lead among young voters at least twice during the campaign (pdf, p. 2)
Despite the emergence of this large, energized swing vote, when Congress cut almost $40 billion from the federal budget, $12.7 billion came out of student loans. There are far better ways to cut just as much money from the federal budget, without touching education at all.
So what were the Congressional Republicans thinking? That the youth vote still isn’t all that big, compared to the boomers and the retirees? That young people turned out in ’04 but will stay home in the congressional elections of ’06? That most young voters won’t notice the cuts or know whom to blame for them? That college students are really a Democratic constituency? (Note that 41% of college students chose Bush: pdf.) These assumptions are not crazy, but they pose risks for Republicans, who may be applying outdated ideas. In the 1990s, young people were a relatively small group; they tended not to vote; and those college students who did turn out were heavily Democratic. None of this is true anymore. The Millennial Generation forms a large demographic group, seemingly more engaged in politics, and up for grabs. Those are three reasons for incumbent politicians to pay them a little more respect.