Differing views on higher education could affect

Incumbent U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, said the federal government is amply accommodating the financial needs of college students while his challenger, Democrat Paul van Dam, said he could do more.

“We’ve seen a lot of increase in spending,” Bennett said Thursday following a debate at the Hinckley Institute of Politics.

“Spending on education is up 61 percent, but Bush doesn’t get the credit…we need to simply continue to do the things we’re doing,” he added.

Bennett confirmed Bush’s statement in the final presidential debate that, with the help of the Senate, the government has provided a million more Pell Grants for students.

But Van Dam said those numbers are misleading.

“They’ve expanded the number of Pell Grants, but those may be cut early because of the caps they’ve placed on them,” he said. “We need to make more money available…the prices of books and tuition are rising 10 percent each year.”

Bennett has maintained a comfortable lead throughout the race and has led by as many as 47 percentage points in March.

Bennett said he has 12 years of experience, background, contacts, networks and alliances to offer constituents and said he can harvest benefits for Utah through exploiting those attributes.

Van Dam said he wants to overhaul the Senate position to stop the bickering and start solving problems.

“What good is seniority if you don’t do something with it?” he asked.

Van Dam touted his political experience as well, having held two local government positions-Utah attorney general and Salt Lake County district attorney.

The local senate race generally garners the most national attention among Utah races as it contributes to the political makeup of the U.S. Legislature and could change the majority party.

Currently there are 51 Republicans and 48 Democrats in the U.S. Senate.

Utah has not had a Democratic senator since 1976.

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