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In an effort to mobilize America's youngest voters, Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry addressed issues pertinent to college students during a conference call with college journalists yesterday.

"Young people have to emerge as a political force in America," the Massachusetts senator said, citing college students' influence on the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s as evidence of the "enormous power" that young voters possess.

"They really have to understand it and embrace it," he added. When young voters are apathetic, they "empower the people [who have] money."

The presidential hopeful delivered opening remarks on his plan to make higher education more affordable in the United States.

Kerry's proposal includes a $25 billion aid package to all the states in order to halt the tuition hikes that have resulted from state budget crunches.

Kerry said that President George W. Bush's economic programs have crippled states' budgets, resulting in tuition hikes and decreases in financial aid, including government loans and Pell grants. In turn, "220,000 young Americans were priced out of the American Dream" this school year, Kerry said.

Kerry also promised a $4,000-per-student tuition tax cut to try to "reduce the impact of the last few years," he said.

After addressing higher education, Kerry fielded questions on a range of issues.

Regarding Social Security, Kerry said, "I guarantee you that Social Security will be there through this century for your generation and the next."

"I do not intend to privatize Social Security the way George Bush wants to do it. ... If we roll back the tax cut and begin to be responsible fiscally, Social Security will be just fine," he said.

Kerry also discussed his plans to create 10 million jobs in the next four years, particularly the "high-paying jobs that people need on graduation from college."

The conference call was part of Kerry's program to reach out to college students. "The Change Starts with U: Kerry Campus Tour 2004" began this week and will continue up to Election Day in November.

Kerry is using the tour as a chance to speak with students about his "compact with the next generation," according to a press release from the Kerry campaign.

The compact is "a vision for the country and a challenge to the next generation of Americans to invest themselves in their communities," the press release stated.

Despite Kerry's efforts this week, College Republicans Chairwoman Stephanie Steward said she has not been impressed with Kerry's efforts to reach out to the young electorate.

President Bush "excites college students a lot more," she said, adding that college students are moving to the right.

However, the Penn College Democrats have been in "pretty constant contact with the Kerry campaign," said Daniel De Rosa, the Penn Democrats political outreach chairman. "We've been helping out since the beginning."

Both Steward and De Rosa said that the issues themselves this election year will draw young voters to the polls in November.

"We've really been forced to pay attention," Steward said. The candidates should reach out to student leaders on college campuses, who can then "extend that encouragement and really raise the voter turnout."

"It's going to be a high turnout" this year, De Rosa agreed. "Young people have a lot of passionate views."

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