PINE BLUFF — The race between U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor and challenger U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton heated up Wednesday with each campaign critiquing each other regarding access to loans and grants to pay for college.

PINE BLUFF — The race between U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor and challenger U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton heated up Wednesday with each campaign critiquing each other regarding access to loans and grants to pay for college.


Former Arkansas Gov. and U.S. Sen. David Pryor campaigned on behalf of his son Mark Pryor at Lybrand’s Bakery on Hazel Street in Pine Bluff. Earlier in the day, he spoke at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and also planned to bring the same message to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. In the days leading to the Nov. 4 election, David Pryor said he will visit with other groups to ask for their support of his son.


David Pryor said that Cotton supported legislation to reduce the availability of affordable student loans and that cut $106 billion in Pell Grants. He took aim at Cotton for opposing equal-pay legislation and the Farm Bill.


"Young people become disillusioned and wonder if they can afford a loan to pay for college," David Pryor said. "Tom Cotton voted to slash Pell Grants."


Polls have shown the race between Pryor and Cotton to be so close, setting the stage for an election day when the outcome may not be known for awhile, David Pryor said. Toward this end, he urged people to cast their ballot on Nov. 4.


"We may go to sleep (on Nov. 4) not knowing who won the race," David Pryor said. "We may not know about the future of Pell Grants and loans."


Cotton’s Communications Director David Ray dismissed David Pryor’s comments as false and said affordable access to college in not a partisan issue.


"These attacks are completely false. Providing access to affordable college education isn’t a Republican or a Democratic issue," Ray said in a written statement. "It’s something every Arkansan supports. That’s why Tom Cotton is committed to bringing affordable higher education to every Arkansan.


"When Sen. Mark Pryor and Washington Democrats passed Obamacare, they slipped in massive changes to the student loan program, essentially nationalizing the student loan industry," Ray said. "These reckless changes could leave taxpayers on the hook for another large-scale bailout similar to when the housing bubble burst. Politicians like Mark Pryor continually meddle with the rates of student loans, which causes tuition costs to skyrocket. It’s a fact that tuition for Arkansas students has increased by 75 percent since Sen. Pryor took office."


Tom Cotton helped pass the Student and Family Tax Simplification Act — legislation that simplifies current education tax benefits to ease the cost burden of a college education by allowing more students and families to take advantage of the tax benefits available to them, Ray said.


The Act includes strong anti-fraud provisions and reduces credit over-payments, Ray said. This legislation excludes Pell Grants from being considered as normal income, Ray said. Current law forces Arkansas students to pay taxes on their Pell Grant money as though it were earned income, he said.


"This legislation remains stalled in the Senate where Democrats like Sen. Pryor refuse to even bring it up for debate," Ray said. "Sen. Pryor has also so far failed to acknowledge the impact taxes are having on Arkansas students."