- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is courting young voters in several appearances across Louisiana this week, talking about her support for legislation that could lower students’ college costs.

The Democratic incumbent, locked in a tight race for re-election, is making stops at colleges in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Shreveport.

She’s describing her work on bills that would lower student loan interest rates and raise Pell Grant awards. Most importantly, she’s urging the typically low-turnout group to show up to the polls on Nov. 4.

“This election matters. The outcome of these races really matter, so I need you all to vote. I need you to talk to your friends. And I need you all to get on Facebook and Twitter and tweet these things out and help people to understand there’s an important election coming up,” Landrieu told about 70 students Tuesday in a speech at Baton Rouge Community College.

On Wednesday, she was to speak at Dillard University, and on Friday she was scheduled to be at Centenary College in Shreveport.

Considered vulnerable, Landrieu is looking for new voters who could make the difference in her tough bid for a fourth term. Her main Republican challengers are U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy and retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness, a tea party favorite. The national GOP is targeting Landrieu in its effort to retake control of the Senate.

Landrieu framed her college affordability initiative as an effort to grow middle-income voters in her poverty-ridden state. Census data recently showed one in five people in Louisiana lives in poverty. Meanwhile, state higher education financing has been cut $700 million since 2008 and college tuition rates have been rising annually.

The senator’s proposal includes two bills: one to double the maximum Pell Grant award available through the need-based federal aid program and another to let student loan borrowers refinance their debt at lower interest rates.

“These students have ambition. They have intelligence. They have the drive. Their parents just don’t have a fat checkbook, and that should not be a detriment to their advancement,” Landrieu said.

The bills are lingering in the Senate.

Asked about Landrieu’s proposals, Cassidy didn’t directly say whether he supported such ideas. Instead, he said issues of college affordability and college degree effectiveness should be considered in a “more global reform,” rather than in a piecemeal approach.

Cassidy hasn’t taken the same targeted approach with college-age voters that Landrieu is using, instead following the more traditional route of recruiting young volunteers who speak to student organizations about the Republican congressman and reach out on college campuses for voter support.

“We don’t segregate out younger voters out from every other voter,” he said after an endorsement event Wednesday.


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