Over the past four years, the president and his young supporters have been buffeted by the Great Recession and by endless stalemates with Republicans in Congress. And of course, an incumbent is inherently less exciting than an underdog candidate promising hope and change. But I think the bigger reason for the dampened enthusiasm is that, in his four years in office, Obama has missed the chance to empower young people — and some of his policies have ended up infantilizing them instead.

Obama now seems less like the cool friend he was to young voters in 2008 and more like the worn-out father whose roof they’re still sleeping under. Among 18-to-24-year-olds, 53 percent have moved back in with Mom and Dad, at least temporarily, in the past few years. Half of college graduates are unemployed or underemployed — and the unemployment rate for those 24 and younger is more than 17 percent. Two-thirds of college grads take home an average of $26,600 in student loan debt, and almost 1 in 10 borrowers default on those loans within two years. …

Rather than increasing young people’s dependency on the government, their families and private lenders to pay for college, it would be better to find ways to directly reduce higher-education costs. The Obama administration has made some effort to this end but could do far more. Over four years, starting in 2011, the Labor and Education departments are awarding $2 billion to community colleges to implement open-licensed digital materials and shared courses, among other innovations that could drive down the cost of higher education while updating how it’s delivered.