Students cheered on the candidates outside the Fayetteville town center Oct. 14,  just before the debate between Senator Mark Pryor and Congressman Tom Cotton.

Pryor and Cotton debated issues like education, healthcare and the national deficit.

Pryor said he thinks that a fair interest rate for student loans that will make higher education more affordable for students is 2.3 percent, and that Cotton has said he wants to repeal the Stafford student loan program.

“We need to get more people to go to college and get more people to complete college,” Pryor said. “That will make Arkansas better.”

Cotton said he wants to make it easier for students to get a mix of loans from the federal government and local banks, which is not possible under the current government. He also said that during Pryor’s 12 years in office, the cost of tuition at the UofA has increased by 84 percent.

Cotton said he did not support the use of Common Core, a nationally standardized curriculum, because it cuts down on creativity and critical thinking for students.

“I don’t think we should be using a one-size-fits-all method, like Common Core, to give your federal tax dollars back to local schools,” Cotton said.

Pryor said he also did not support the use of a “federal curriculum.”

Pryor and Cotton specifically debated the use of Obamacare and the effects it has had on the middle class.

Cotton said that the new healthcare plan took the choice of where to get health care away from Arkansans. He said people who were happy with their previous health care lost it, because of the consequences of Obamacare.

“This was not an unintended consequence, it was intended,” Cotton said. “Mark Pryor and Barack Obama wanted people on government insurance, not private insurance.”

Pryor said that the new healthcare plan has provided people with pre-existing conditions the option for private healthcare.

“When we go back to the high-risk pool, which will be the case if Tom Cotton gets his way, it is like throwing sick people to the wolves,” Pryor said.

The national deficit is over $17 trillion, according to’s national debt clock.

Pryor said that in the last three years, he has voted to cut $4 trillion in spending. He said that to balance the budget, he wants to work on building up the middle class, which he defined as anyone who makes under $200,000. 

“We can balance the budget,” Pryor said. “We balanced the budget just 20 years ago when President Clinton was in office, and we did it by discipline and good old Arkansas arithmetic.”

Cotton said that during Pryor’s time in office, national spending has increased by an average of $1 trillion per year, and that Pryor voted for “every single penny of it.” This is a 60 percent increase in spending. He said the next generation will owe an average of $50,000 per person.

“We should not be doing that to the next generation of Arkansans,” Cotton said.

Sophomore Michael Morrison said he thinks that Pryor answered the questions more directly than Cotton did.

“I think it went very well for both sides,” Morrison said. “They both had good points, but I would say Mr. Pryor had a slight advantage.”

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