McCaskill speaks about student loans at MU

The speech covered the topics of student loans and her election against Rep.Todd Akin.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., gave a speech Tuesday afternoon at Middlebush Hall to a packed room of MU students and other politically active members of the community on issues such as the increasing cost of college tuition and the importance of voting.

McCaskill said in her speech she will spend the next several days traveling around Missouri talking with voters. Her first stop was MU.

The Missouri Senatorial race has made national news in recent weeks, though not for its tight competition. Incumbent McCaskill, who has been a senator for five years, is almost neck and neck with her opponent, Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo. In the latest polls conducted by Public Policy Polling, McCaskill leads Akin by only one percentage point, with 45 percent of the vote to Akin's 44 percent.

"It's terrific to be back on the campus of the university I love," McCaskill said. "When I was growing up, my mom had two ways of getting us kids in the car. There were four of us, and when she couldn't get us to move fast enough, she'd either say, 'Last one in the car is a Jayhawk,' or, 'Last one in the car is a Republican.'"

McCaskill graduated from MU in 1975 with a degree in political science and received her JD in 1978 from the MU School of Law.

"Higher education is the surest ticket to the middle class the world has ever known,"McCaskill said.

McCaskill spoke extensively about the importance of higher education and the steadily rising cost of tuition. In 2008, McCaskill voted in favor of the Higher Education Opportunity Act, a bill that provided for an increase in Pell Grants nationwide, aiding low-income students across the U.S. to afford a college degree.

McCaskill spoke of the importance of voting throughout her speech.

"I want to make sure you understood that you have a stake in this one," McCaskill said. "We all know that the elder voters are a very powerful voting bloc in this country. Traditionally, students have not been. They haven't cared as much. I think it's wrong that higher education has gotten so expensive. I think we need you to be really aggressive advocates."

Throughout her speech, McCaskill made no mention of Akin's recent national notoriety surrounding his comments on rape, though she did share her own personal views on the topic.

"I want women to have that choice, to take emergency contraceptives after rape. (Akin) thinks differently," she said. "He thinks that should be illegal. He thinks that should be criminal. There is obviously a chasm of difference between Todd Akin and me as it relates to women."

McCaskill was hosted by the Mizzou College Democrats, a student-run organization which aims to increase voter turnout and political awareness on campus.

"We're phone banking," Mizzou College Democrats President Zachary Henry said. "We're probably going to be knocking on doors closer to election time. We're just trying to spread the word among students and get them out to vote, because it's a voting bloc that doesn't show up to the polls as much as we'd like them to."

For students who are not yet registered to vote, regardless of political affiliation or state origin, the group is holding voter registrations across campus, helping give fellow students the chance to voice their own opinions in the upcoming elections.

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