Democratic Senate candidate Mark Udall pushed early voting on the Lory Student Center Plaza Monday afternoon, saying that his GOP opponent Bob Schaffer’s policy would hamper a move toward more affordable higher education.
The state ranks 49th in the U.S. in funding for higher education, as the Colorado Constitution contains a string of amendments that tie lawmakers’ hands from increasing money for state-funded areas.
Congressman Udall has said he is a proponent of Amendments 58 and 59, both of which would allow for increases in higher education funding, with 58 doing away with the tax subsidy for oil and gas companies — resulting in $321 million to be diverted to student scholarships — and 59 creating a savings account that would carry schools through times of economic hardship.
“I think the most important investment we can make in our country is in you,” Udall said, addressing the students in attendance. “We want to ensure that you have low interest rates and scholarships and grant programs.”
On the national level, Schaffer, calling students “high-risk borrowers,” was one of four Congressmen who voted against a 2001 bill that would have guaranteed a lowered student interest rate and a raise in Pell grant money awarded.
Schaffer has defended his actions, though, most recently during a Friday debate with Udall at Denver TV station KMGH, saying the federal student loan program is “doomed to collapse” if the government continues to grant multiple “high-risk loans to high-risk borrowers.”
Comparatively, Schaffer said he equates student loans with the subprime home loans also given to borrowers with less-than-substantial credit, on which he blames the recent U.S. economic struggle.
State Rep. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, said that government’s failure to grant student loans will place a “disproportionate” burden on young people in paying for higher education.
“We see that in Colorado, it’s hard to fund higher education, and we see a lot of creativity going on,” he said, “but at the same time, we see that you, the students, are oftentimes having to pick up a disproportionate amount of the cost, and that’s something that we need to be mindful of.”
Udall agreed, saying that the pursuit of higher education is ultimately beneficial to America as a whole in the new leadership it creates.
“You can count on me to stand up for you,” Udall said, “because this is an investment not just in you, but it’s an investment in me, an investment in all of us.”
State Rep. and CSU graduate Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, emphasized the importance that his two degrees from the university have played in his political awareness and called serving students “one of the greatest privileges of (his) life.”
“One of my visions is that someday in Colorado, every student that wants to have access to a higher education degree will have that opportunity,” he said. “We’re not there yet, but I believe that in the future if we keep going in the direction we’re going . That we will someday achieve that possibility.”
News Editor Elyse Jarvis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.