Each candidate in the U.S. Senate race – Mitch McConnell, Alison Lundergan Grimes and David Patterson(did not respond) – was given the opportunity to respond to a candidate questionnaire.  The following is the response of the Democratic candidate, Ky. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

What do you think your plan and vision offers college students?

The most important issue facing Kentucky is the lack of access to good-paying jobs. That’s why I have offered a comprehensive jobs plan to strengthen the economy and make sure every Kentuckian has a fair shot at success. Expanding opportunity requires diversifying our economy for the long term, building 21st century infrastructure, expanding entrepreneurship and investing in what’s best about Kentucky: our people.

But at a time when Kentucky’s unemployment rate is higher than the national average and Kentucky students carry loan debt of over $20,000 on average, Washington isn’t doing its part.

Families in the Commonwealth are devoting more of their income to tuition, and ever higher numbers of graduates are burdened by unsustainable student debt. The federal government can play a central role in helping students and families, but that will require a senator who puts our future generations before today’s partisan politics.

My plan calls for the federal government to give students the same loan rate as Wall Street banks. For far too long, big Wall Street banks have gotten a great deal from our government, while our Kentucky students drown in debt. Secondly, we must allow our students to refinance unsustainable, high interest loans. I strongly support legislation in the Senate that would help nearly 360,000 Kentuckians reduce their student loan burden.

As Kentucky’s next U.S. Senator, I will also champion equal pay for equal work. This is a critically important issue for college students, because as the American Association of University Women points out: “Women and men pay the same amount for their college degrees, but do not reap the same rewards.” Due to the pay gap, women often have less money to pay back the same amount of loan debt.

And finally, my plan calls for fully funding for Pell Grants. Providing adequate resources for and ideally expanding Pell Grants, while ensuring that working families remain eligible for the grants, are critical to reducing student loan burdens on Kentuckians.

Each of these steps – all opposed by my opponent, by the way – will allow graduates to pursue their ambitions without the drawbacks of overwhelming debt and wage disparities.

Why should college students vote this November?

As the chief election officer for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, you can imagine how important I think it is to participate in the democratic process. During my time as Secretary of

State, we have worked tirelessly to ensure the voting rights of our military and victims of domestic violence. I am motivated every day to eliminate barriers to the ballot box.

Not everyone is as fortunate as we are as Americans, not only to be able to cast votes which shape the future of our communities, state and nation, but also to have a free and open discourse on the issues of our day.

Throughout this campaign, Kentuckians have had a chance to see two distinct visions for the future of our state. And on November 4, we will have an opportunity to make our voices heard and decide who will represent Kentucky in the Senate for the rest of this decade.

No matter your political persuasion, I encourage each and every one of you to exercise this privilege. It is your opportunity to put your hand on the wheel of history, and take this state and this nation in the direction you hope we will go.