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Senator Claire McCaskill (D) stopped in Warrensburg today and spoke on the campus of the University of Central Missouri as part of her campaign “On Our Campus, On Our Side” statewide tour. Earlier in the day she spoke at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. In Warrensburg, at the university’s Student Union, she spoke to a crowd of approximately sixty students and community members. After her opening remarks she took questions from the audience.

Senator Claire McCaskill (D) in Warrensburg at the University of Central Missouri Student Union, September 6, 2012.

Senator McCaskill’s remarks:

Senator Claire McCaskill (D): ….It is great to be here today. Thank you for welcoming me, uh, me to this campus. We are traveling the state this week, working very hard, trying to get the word out on college campuses that this is a huge election for you, probably the biggest election that you may have, uh, in your whole life when it comes down to preserving the middle class in this country.

The surest ticket I know, guaranteed ticket to the middle class in this country is, in fact, a college education. It is, um, absolutely a slam dunk that you will be part of the middle class in this country. Maybe beyond, but certainly part of the middle class in this country, if you get your degree. And really, if you look at why we have been envied by the rest of the world, yes, it’s because of our freedoms, yes, it’s because of our open system of government, but it’s really about our standard of living. ‘Cause, you see, every country has rich people and every country has poor people. But there’s a whole lot of countries that don’t have much in between. In our country we always have. And we have grown and strengthened that middle class through the expansion of educational opportunities in this country…

…If you look at the first GI Bill, I was proud to be a sponsor of the second GI Bill, but if you look at the first GI Bill and what the men and women did a, around that college education after World War Two and what they did for the middle class in this country, they really set us apart from the rest of the world. And only in America was it so common that you would have two cars, that you would have a washer and a dryer in your house, that you would have enough money to add on a small addition, and maybe buy a bass boat, maybe a small cabin down at the lake, take a vacation every once in a while. That was something that the rest of the world said, gosh, I really wish we had that kind of vibrant, consuming middle class that really was the rock solid foundation of our stellar economy. And it continues to be the most important piece of our economy.

So that’s why the position of my opponent is so hard to understand. How many people in this room are going to college right now, either with a federally backed student loan or a Pell Grant? And how many of those same hands would stay up if I asked you if you have a job? Yeah. So I, obviously, none of you are working very hard. [laughter] Kidding. Um, most students who have grants or federal loans also work. I did. And I think most students do. So it’s not as if students are getting these grants or loans and putting their feet up and saying, you know, bring me another beer. Uh, students are doing everything they can to make this affordable, to make sure their debt load is not too much, and to try to get through college, and get out into the work force in a way that makes sense for our country.

My opponent wants to end Pell Grants and end any federal backing of student loans. There are over three hundred thousand young people in Missouri alone that are attending college right now because of federally backed student loans or Pell Grants. That’s three hundred thousand young people, the vast majority of which could not go to college without that help. And what would that do to Warrensburg? What would that do to Maryville? What would that do to Kirksville? What would that do to Springfield and Columbia, Jefferson City, Cape Girardeau? I don’t need to tell the people in Warrensburg how important this university is to economic activity in this county. Talk about an engine.

So, the notion that we would all of a sudden turn off the ability of all of these young people to get these loans and get these grants makes absolutely no sense to me. But, it does to Todd Akin. He wants to end all federal involvement with education. K through twelve and higher ed. No more Department of Education, no more school lunches, no more Pell Grants, no more student loans. And I think that should be a non-starter with most Missourians.

Now, what would happen if Todd Akin’s position prevailed, if he became a United States Senator, and his position prevailed? Who would go to college? I’ve had three seventeen year olds. I wouldn’t loan money to any of them. [laughter] I’m trying to imagine a high school graduate who’s family doesn’t have money, who’s family can’t underwrite the cost of tuition and books and room and board. I’m trying to imagine that young person walking in to the bank and saying, I’ve just graduated from high school, I have no work history, I have no credit history, I have no marketable skills, will you give me twenty, thirty thousand dollars to go to college? So of course the bank is gonna say no. That seventeen year old is not a good credit risk. The only reason these loans are occurring is because the federal government backs them. And the vast majority of young people pay these loans back. So it’s a great investment to have hat backing. But banks are not gonna take that risk.

And so, who would go to college in America? Anybody? [voice: “The rich.”] Wealthy. The wealthy families, their kids would go to college. And maybe a few star athletes, because they’d still want to have football programs, probably. And maybe a few rock star academics that could get scholarships from the individual universities. But the vast majority of the young people that are going to college in America would no longer have that opportunity. That door would be slammed shut. And that, ladies and gentlemen, would be a huge mistake for the United States of America. It would remove us from that special class of countries where we have a middle class that is growing and can compete on a global basis because of the quality of the educated work force in this country. That is a sure ticket to a race to the bottom that we could possibly win if we slam that door shut.

So, that’s why I’m getting around this week, to make sure people understand that many of the positions my opponent has are for, so far out of the mainstream it’s hard to figure out what he’s thinking. It really is. Uh, because this, obviously, would have a devastating impact on our country. And I think that it’s one I hope will motivate you to get involved in this campaign….