United States Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) was greeted at the doors of the Sauder Alumni Center by children from the Center for Early Childhood Education last Friday afternoon. The kids made sure Roberts did not leave empty handed, sending him home with a poster they made.
“I don’t know if they knew how important of a person he was, but they always enjoy meeting new people,” said Keely Persinger, director of the CECE. “We talked about how he is an important person that their moms and dads go to for help. I think Roberts was really excited as well, and I think he would have rather sat down with kids than go to the meeting. They are good ambassadors.”
Roberts took the podium for about an hour at the town hall meeting. He covered a range of issues from higher education to national security, saying over-regulation is the biggest problem facing Washington.
Compromise is what Roberts said Washington needs to focus on most.
“People do not want to give up their convictions, but they also want to reach across the aisle and see if they get at least some compromise to show they are working together,” Roberts said. “Kansas I am not really worried about in regards to having town hall meetings, to talk and to boast because we are going to agree 90, 95 percent of the time.”
In an interview after the meeting, Roberts weighed in on the cost of higher education. He said he was not happy with President Barack Obama’s takeover of the student loan program.
“The cost to the student is now about 6.2 (percent),” Roberts said. “The difference goes to pay for the stimulus and Obamacare…. I really objected to that and that was my executive order, but Congress didn’t have anything to do with it.”
Roberts said lack of discipline to the student loan program is making it harder for students get and pay off their loans.
“Once again, you are paying 6.8 percent for that student loan when a community banker might have given it to you for 3.8,” Roberts said. “It is too expensive. These things should be paid off in five or 10 years. They shouldn’t be strung out over a 40-year period. That just isn’t right.”
President Michael Shonrock met with Roberts before the meeting.
“I appreciate when someone says, ‘What can we do to help Emporia State University’,” Shonrock said. “It was wonderful to have a U.S. senator come visit Emporia State.”
Roberts was born in Topeka and graduated with a degree in journalism from Kansas State at Manhattan and still carries a reporter’s notebook with him, which he showed to a student journalist after the town hall meeting. Roberts served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 16 years, beginning in 1981. He was elected to the Senate in 1997 and is now the senior senator from Kansas.