Reuben Jones, Broadside Correspondent

After asking students around campus whether they have been following the 2009 race for governor, there were two responses that became very apparent: No, students are not following the election, and yes, education is the most important issue to students this election.

“I registered but I don’t know anything about the candidates,” said sophomore and economics major Rufaro Mandizvidza. This could be because the race for governor between Democrat Creigh Deeds and Republican Bob McDonnell has yet to fire up many Virginians.

Specifically, college-aged voters are expected to come in low numbers to the polls tomorrow as there has not been much excitement surrounding Virginia’s race, a state that forbids a governor from running for more than one term consecutively.

“Drop-off is going to be sharper for younger adults,” said Assistant Professor of Communication Stephen Farnsworth. “Creigh Deeds has yet to motivate younger voters,” a group that Farnsworth says was “excited” when Obama ran, and a group that typically votes more democratic.

According to students, they are not as interested in the election this year as they were for last year’s presidential race. Sophomore Trinh Ngo, a biology major, said he is not informed because he’s “not interested in politics.”

Farnsworth explains that these are normal behaviors during a governor’s election because college students “tend to not have a long-term commitment to Virginia and they have a tendency to focus more on national elections.”

Although students are not closely following the election, many students agree that the most important issue currently is education. “[The cost of ] college is too high,” said undeclared freshman Gabe Hamilton.

In an economy that is not making it easy for students to afford college, the State Council of Higher Education expects Virginia undergraduate students to pay on average 5.2 percent more in 2009 through 2010 than they did the prior year on tuition. With numbers like these, education is an issue candidates cannot afford to ignore and as a result they have each proposed individual higher education plans.

McDonnell’s plan consists of adding 100,000 additional Associate and Bachelor’s Degrees over the next 15 years, a goal to restructure the educational system for affordability and employability, and to cut down on the cost of textbooks by using electronic reading devices, such as a Kindle.

Deeds’ plan aims to establish a “Virginia Promise Fund” to curb tuition increases during tough economic times, increase need-based tuition assistance by at least $40 million, and to pursue public-private partnerships that connect job training at universities with the local business needs.

Both candidates agree education is going to be an important issue in the next several years for governor and that there needs to be a greater emphasis in colleges on science, technology, engineering and mathematic degrees.

Each candidate’s full higher education plan can be found on their respective websites.

Throughout the campaign, Deeds has consistently emphasized the conditions in which he was raised in. He repeatedly tells the story of when his mom sent him off to college with only $100, a story that is becoming more common in a tough economy.

It has been published that Deeds has emphasized in debates and repeated in television commercials his intent to target college-aged voters.

McDonnell also needed financial support when going to college. He went to Notre Dame University on a full Army ROTC scholarship, eventually graduating with a law degree from Regent University in 1989.

Deeds went to Concord College and received a law degree from Wake Forest University in 1984.

Whatever the reason, many college-aged students around Virginia have not followed the election. The few young voters who do participate in the election will end up having an extremely important role in the outcome.