Student loan debt is an issue Alison Lundergan Grimes plans to face head on if she is voted as the new U.S Senator for Kentucky in next week’s election.
Murray State graduates averaged nearly $21,000 in debt in 2012, according to the Project on Student Debt.
Grimes met with approximately 50 people Tuesday at the town square in Benton, Ky.
Amid the pouring rain, the campaign team ushered supporters into an open building next to the Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice cafe.
Grimes is challenging Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for the Senate seat.
She said McConnell has chosen to back Wall Street instead of backing students.
She supports a bill offered by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren that would allow students to obtain a federally subsidized Stafford loan at 0.75 percent versus the current 3.4 percent rate according to Grimes’ campaign website.
“I will work to make sure that our students can afford degrees and not have debt,” Grimes said.
McConnell introduced a bill in Feburary 2013, the Enhanced 529-Setting Aside for a Valuable Education Act, that will make it easier for lower and middle-income families to pay for higher education, according to his website.
Lexi Lamb, Murray State alumna from Hardin, Ky., said Grimes seemed genuine and she thought reforming student loan policies would help the next generation of students.
“Between me and my husband we had more than 10 payments in student loans after graduating,” Lamb said.
Lamb said Grimes’ push for equal pay and rights for women is what persuaded her vote.
“When women graduate they should be on equal footing with men,” Grimes said.
Nicole Sutton, from Calvert City, Ky., said she was unable to go to Murray State because of the cost of tuition, even with the help of loans and financial aid.
“As a single mother I am trying to benefit not only my life but my daughter’s life by going back to school and furthering my education to get a career,” she said. “I know so many people doing the same as me who are crippled even at their highest potential because of their student loan debt and their interest rates.”
Sutton said she wasn’t asking for student loan forgiveness, but for a change in policy.
Grimes said in addition to advocating for equal pay for men and women, she wants to increase minimum wage.
“When students graduate they should have an opportunity to live the American dream,” Grimes said.
Grimes said if she is elected, history will be made. Kentucky has never elected a female U.S. Senator.
“Seven more days of hard work is all we’ve got left,” said Mike Miller, the Marshall County Judge/Executive, as he opened for Grimes. “But all this campaigning means nothing if you don’t go out and vote.”
Story by Mari-Alice Jasper, Staff writer