President Barack Obama plans to hit Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on education today, accusing his challenger of having no plan to help middle- income students get a college education.
Targeting a key constituency in the swing state of Ohio, Obama plans to tell an audience on the campus of Capital University in Columbus that Romney would pull support from under students struggling to pay for higher education.
“I can tell you with some experience that making higher education more affordable for our young people is something I’ve got a personal stake in,” Obama will say, according to excerpts of his prepared remarks released by his campaign. Romney’s “answer for a young person hoping to go to college: shop around, borrow money from your parents if you have to, but if they don’t have it, you’re on your own.”
Obama is driving home his education message in a state that has voted for the winner in every presidential election since 1964. Polls show the competition for Ohio’s 18 electoral votes is up for grabs, with Obama leading Romney by less than 2 percentage points in the average of four surveys compiled by the website Real Clear Politics.
Voters age 18 to 29 were a key constituency for Obama in the 2008 election, with national exit polls showing he received 66 percent of their vote.
Before his speech at Capital University, a private institution, he stopped by the student union at Ohio State University to talk with students.
College costs have soared faster than the rate of inflation over the past four decades and student-loan debt has reached the $1 trillion mark. Obama has made expanding access to higher education one of his main re-election themes.
In January at the University of Michigan, Obama proposed rewarding schools that control costs with access to more loans and grants. In June, at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, he touted an executive order that eases the application process for a loan program that lets students make lower payments tied to their incomes, stretching them over decades.
In the education plan he released in May, Romney said Obama’s financial-aid initiatives encourage students to take on more debt, “claiming to help them today and then sending them the bill tomorrow.”
Romney advocates cutting education regulation and encouraging colleges to become more efficient, lowering costs partly through the use of online instruction.
The rally in Ohio is the first stop in a three-state trip. After Ohio, Obama heads west to Nevada before returning east to New York City for a rally and a fundraiser with NBA basketball stars.
In Nevada, another swing state, Obama will again address education at a community college tonight in Reno and then a high school outside of Las Vegas tomorrow, where he’ll first pose for pictures with teachers.
Obama has sought to focus attention on the effects of budget cuts on education at the state and local level. Republicans in Congress have rejected the $447 billion proposal he made in September, which would have increased direct aid to states to for teacher’s salaries, as well as money for other public sector employees, like police and firemen.
Last week the White House released a study that reported that 300,000 education jobs have been lost since the recession officially ended in the summer on 2009.
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