Obama to Santorum: College Not a Luxury

Monday, 27 Feb 2012 07:29 PM

 

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In a veiled jab at Republican White House contender Rick Santorum, President Barack Obama said on Monday that a college education was not a luxury and pledged to do all he could to rein in skyrocketing tuition.

"We can't allow higher education to be a luxury in this country," Obama said at a White House meeting with Republican and Democratic state governors. "It's an economic imperative that every family in America has to be able to afford. And frankly, I don't think any of this should be a partisan issue."

In comments last week that stirred controversy, Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, criticized Obama's emphasis on higher education.

"President Obama once said he wants everyone in America to go to college. What a snob," said Santorum, who has sought to court blue-collar voters and conservative Republicans as he vies to become the Republican presidential nominee to challenge Obama in November.

On the campaign trail, Santorum has also compared public schools to factories and called for a reduced role for the federal and state governments in education. Santorum was campaigning on Monday in Michigan, which along with Arizona holds a primary vote on Tuesday.

Pressed on whether Obama's comments were a direct response to Santorum's remarks, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president's aim was to speak more broadly about education.

Still, Carney said he didn't think American parents would consider it "snobbery to hope for that child the best possible education in the future, and that includes college."

Republican governors attending the White House meeting said they found some common ground with Obama on education.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who has sparred with Obama on issues such as immigration, said the Democratic president had a "good, strong message on education" and that she agreed with some aspects of education policy.

Obama told the governors he understood that states were facing budget constraints but that was "no excuse to lose sight of what matters most."

"I'm calling on all of you: Invest more in education. Invest more in our children and in our future," Obama said, adding that states needed to work with his administration to help curb the problem of spiraling tuition costs.

In a speech in Florida earlier this month, Vice President Joe Biden said tuition at public U.S. universities had increased nearly 300 percent over the last two decades. (Additional reporting by Laura MacInnis and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Paul Simao)

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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