Incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock is spending much of the final campaign days ahead of Georgia's Tuesday runoff election courting student voters across the state, touting his support for President Biden's student loan handout program that has so far failed to forgive any college debt.
In multiple campaign stops at educational institutions across Georgia — many of them historically Black colleges and universities — Warnock implored students to vote in the runoff, apparently hoping the demographic, which historically does not turn out in high numbers, might propel him over the finish line ahead of his Republican opponent, Herschel Walker.
'Your voice is powerful and important and impactful, and tell all your peers who say, ‘I’m not sure my vote counts,' or ‘My vote doesn’t count,' tell them that the only way your vote doesn't count is if you don't vote,' Warnock told a crowd of students during a speech at Fort Valley State University Tuesday.
Warnock frequently mentions his role in backing Biden's $400 billion student loan handout plan, which has been tied up in court battles after numerous lawsuits challenged its legality. The student loan handout received a major setback Wednesday when the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the administration's plea to reinstate it after it was suspended by a federal judge in November.
Warnock described his experience of having to rely on Pell Grants and low-interest student loans to pay for his schooling, and he cited that as one reason he urged Biden to pursue the student loan handout program, a popular policy largely among student voters.
'When I looked up and saw that a kid who grew up in public housing was sitting in the Oval Office looking the President of the United States of America in the eye, I said to him, ‘Mr. President, I need you to do student loan relief, and I need you to do it as soon as possible.’ By the way, $10,000 is not enough. I pushed him, and he decided to do $20,000 for folks who are Pell Grant eligible,' Warnock said.
'I pushed the president over against those who were resisting to do student debt relief. Now, I'm focused on trying to get the cost of college and technical school and community school under control, because here is my conviction: Our children should not graduate with a mortgage before they even have a mortgage,' he later added.
Warnock made a similar pitch to students at Georgia Tech, Albany State University, the University of West Georgia, Emory University, Morehouse College, Kennesaw State University and Valdosta State University, focusing heavily in his speeches on the work done by civil rights leaders like the late Rep. John Lewis, who served for decades as a Georgia congressman before his death in 2020.
Fox News Digital spoke with Warnock following his stop in Fort Valley and another in Tifton, Georgia, and asked if Biden's student loan handout, should it ever be enacted, was a means to ending student debt and what he would do to lower the cost of education to avoid student debt ballooning once again.
'Well, it's clear to me that we can't do student debt relief every 10 years or so. And I think about this as someone who needed Pell Grants and low-interest student loans to get through school. I paid mine off, but the situation has changed over the last 35 years,' he said.
'We've seen the price of college education continue to outpace inflation. We've seen bad actors in that student loan debt space, and I'm interested in reform, both reforming the process itself — I'd like to see us make more Pell Grants available — and I'd like to see us hold people accountable in that space so we get the price of college tuition, or technical tuition or community college tuition under control,' he added.
Fox News Digital reached out to the Warnock campaign for a response to the 5th Circuit Court's decision not to reinstate the student loan handout, but a representative did not respond by publishing time.
Fox also asked Warnock why it was important for him to focus so much time courting the student vote considering its historically low turnout compared to other demographics.
'I just think it's important for the democracy for young voices to be heard. We need movement on a whole range of things, and there's something about the idealism of young people who haven't been hardened yet by the kind of cynicism that too often grips American politics that we need,' Warnock explained.
'There have been no great movements in our country without the voice, the vision, the intelligence, the passion, the impatience of young people. And what worries me is when young people, seeing the slow rate of change, sometimes get discouraged and say, 'Why bother? My voice doesn't count,'' he said.
Warnock added that, for him, being on college campuses was more than a get-out-the-vote effort because of his work as a pastor and activist.
'I'm spending time trying to, hopefully, inspire these young people to commit to a lifelong practice of making sure their voices are heard, not only at the ballot box, but through activism and through public service,' he said.
With young voters between the ages of 18 and 24 historically being the age demographic with the lowest voter turnout rates across the country, the Warnock campaign has sought to use that untapped voting power to its advantage by investing heavily in its campus organizing programs in addition to the senator's numerous visits to campuses throughout the campaign.
One Warnock campaign aide told Fox News Digital the campaign was 'dramatically expanding' its campus organizing program ahead of the runoff after an already earlier than usual launch in the summer of 2022.
The aide added that, after Election Day in November, the campaign hired 100 campus fellows, 'students on campus who are working to talk to their friends and mobilize voters,' and have had those organizers on 14 different campuses across Georgia.
The campaign also invested in a voter protection team that helped expand the number of early voting days for on-campus voting locations in Fulton County, including at Georgia Tech and Morehouse College.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Biden's student loan handout plan in February while the cancellations will remain blocked.
Friday is the last day of early voting for Tuesday's runoff election.