State of the Student Union: Edging Back Toward Apathy on Obama’s 1st Anniversary

College students seem to see a great deal of distance between Washington and their everyday lives and concerns on campus.

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address marked another step in his first term, as he highlighted the prominent issues of financial woes facing so many Americans, along with the political struggle that accompanies his efforts to reform healthcare. The January 27th address, delivered just days after marking his first year in office, drew a mixed response from most voters, including college students.

Indeed, a search for college students who heard the speech and wanted to offer their thoughts revealed that many of them had skipped the address altogether, a sign of apathy that appears to contradict the excitement that Obama generated on campuses throughout the nation during his campaign.

University of Southern California (USC) journalism student Shelly Quan said skipped she the State of the Union Address—and she’s not even sure why.

“I didn’t actually watch it,” Quan said. “I just heard about it. I think part of the reason nobody watched it is because of some football game that day.”

Many of her fellow students also skipped the speech, she said. Not many bothered to read the text of the address, either.

“I care more about local issues than national issues,” Quan said. “They aren’t really affecting me right now.”

Quan’s statement appears to reflect a general mood towards the government on college campuses, where many students appear to have grown indifferent to the president’s efforts as they increasingly focus on their personal challenges in dealing with financial uncertainties and other issues.

USC film student Blake Larson said that he had little interest in Obama’s address.

“I assume he said some stuff,” Larson said.  I didn’t really watch it because I didn’t have time. I need to focus on things that directly involve me right now. His stuff seems to be taking a while, so I’m not going to worry.”

Some college students are fixed on the challenges of paying for their schooling, while others are just as concerned about the prospects for their futures. And they seem to be giving Obama a break there, even if they’re not exactly listening to what he has to say.

“I can’t blame the president for the lack of jobs in the field of journalism, where I want to major,” Quan said. “I think it’s personally the fault of modern journalists. In a sense, it’s the industry that has to change. Other industries have the same problem, and the president has nothing to do with it. Also, job creation is not the foremost thing on my mind, because I’m only in college now. It’s just bad timing now for everyone else. But no matter what, I’m still really worried about tomorrow. I think about it every day.”

Larson agreed.

“I’m positive that I’m going to get some sort of job, whether it’s a good or bad job,” he said. “I think the whole current job market search is a lot more about personal initiative and bad timing. But yeah, I have my doubts.”

The sentiments from these USC students fall in line with a recent survey by researchers at the cross-town University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) campus. The UCLA survey found that college freshmen are increasingly worried about the cost of tuition. Two thirds of respondents to the survey said that they were “somewhat or majorly” concerned about paying tuition, and 53.3 percent of the participating freshmen stated that they were using loans. More than half—56.5 percent—said that getting good jobs after graduation was a “very important” factor in their college decision, and 78.1 percent said that being financially well off is a top goal.

The concerns expressed by respondents to the survey don’t match up well with the apathy over the State of the Union speech, though. It seems that many college students want to shrug off their worries and disregard national issues that do not directly involve them—just yet.

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