COLUMBIA — Candidates for one of Missouri's U.S. Senate seats couldn't disagree more on whether or not federally backed student loans are a good idea.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill highlighted her support for the loans in a visit to MU on Tuesday afternoon that's part of a tour of colleges and universities in Missouri. She also visited Westminster College in Fulton.
McCaskill's Republican opponent in the U.S. Senate race, U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, has proposed that the federal government get out of the student-loan business and leave it to private lenders. McCaskill called that idea “wrongheaded, naive and dumb,” in a speech to about 30 MU students in Middlebush Hall.
“If your family doesn’t have the money to send you to college, and you walk into a bank and say, ‘I have no credit record, I have no money, I have no marketable skill. But by the way can you give me 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 thousand dollars to go to college?’ The bank is not going to say yes. The bank is going to say that’s too big of a risk,” McCaskill said.
Akin’s campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
However, the congressman, who represents Missouri's 2nd District in the St. Louis area, has publicly stated his opposition to federal involvement in student loans. In an April 21 Republican primary debate, Akin called federal backing of student loans “the equivalent of the stage three cancer of socialism.”
“What the Democrats did to get rid of the private student loans and take it all over by the government was wrong,” Akin said in a video clip from the debate on YouTube. “It was a lousy bill. That’s why I voted no. The government needs to get its nose out of the education business.”
According to a position statement on Akin's website, he supports eliminating the U.S. Department of Education.
"Education of children is best left to the wisdom of parents, teachers and the taxpayers of local communities," the statement reads. "... The federal government only adds inefficiency to the education process."
According to data from MU’s Office of Financial Aid, undergraduate students accepted 25,055 federally backed loans during the 2010-11 reporting period.
MU freshman English major Margaret Osborn said a recently discovered interest in politics prompted her to attend McCaskill’s speech. Osborn said student loans are a “very important” factor in her decision to support McCaskill over Akin.
“The topic of loans is relevant to students here,” Osborn said. “I’m personally taking out loans. I’m definitely for McCaskill.”
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.
Chart: Anna Burkart/Missourian