August 21st, 2012
06:01 PM ET
COLUMBUS, OH (CNN) - President Barack Obama began a swing through the battleground states of Ohio and Nevada on Tuesday with a focus on education, slamming his Republican opponents for a budget he said would mean deep cuts to education programs and make college less affordable.
Speaking on a college campus in a state he won in 2008, the president touted his administration's efforts to make college more affordable through grants and tax credits and used his own biography to stress the importance of education.
"I'm only standing before you today because of the chance my education gave me," he told the crowd gathered on the quad at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. "So I can tell you, with some experience, that making higher education more affordable for our young people - it's something I've got a personal stake in."
"That's his answer to young people who are trying to figure out how to go to college and make sure that they don't have a mountain of debt - shop around and borrow more money from your parents," Obama said. "Not everybody has parents who have the money to lend. That may be news to some folks, but it's the truth."
According to a report by the New York Federal Reserve Bank earlier this year, student loans rank second to mortgages in household debt. Average tuition and fees for in-state students enrolled in public four-year colleges and universities in 2011-12 was $8,244, according to an analysis by the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center. Tuition for out-of-state students at those schools faced an average price of $20,770. Tuition is lower at public two-year colleges and much higher at private schools.
While the economy tops the list of voters' concerns this election year, much of the discussion on the stump and on the airwaves in recent days has been about Medicare, welfare, Romney's taxes and women's issues. Tuesday's events - aimed at the young voters who were so vital to his win last time and their parents - sought to bring the kind of kitchen table issues important to middle class families back to the forefront. The president was set to visit two colleges and one high school during the two-day trip. Many colleges begin their fall semester in the final weeks of August.
The stops in Ohio and Nevada came a day after the campaign launched a series of radio ads in eight swing states, including Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Nevada and Virginia. The radio ad airing in Ohio says the "Romney-Ryan budget could cut Pell grants for up to 356,000 Ohio students - putting college out of reach for many families." The Democratic National Committee also released a new web video called "Shop Around", in conjunction with today's events.
The Romney campaign website lists education as a priority for the Republican and his campaign said the former Massachusetts governor had not spelled out specific cuts he would make in that area. The Ryan budget does not specifically list new proposed funding levels for Pell Grants, it does call for a rollback of the program's expansion under the Obama administration. The Ryan proposal would focus on providing aid to the low-income students who need it most.
Responding to the president's remarks on education, the Romney campaign sent out an email, "The Obama Economy's Lost Generation," which argued that the president's policies have been bad for students.
"Just yesterday, President Obama told struggling college graduates to look at his 'track record' - but under this president, too many young Americans are suffering from higher college costs, more debt, and a lack of good jobs when they graduate," Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said. "Today's policies are just more of the same from a president who hasn't fixed the economy or kept his promises to the young people who supported him four years ago. The Romney-Ryan plan will deliver 12 million new jobs to help recent graduates – and all Americans – enjoy a more prosperous future."
The email included links to reports on the high levels of debt students across the board face upon graduation and the tough job market.
The president kept up his attacks on Romney's tax proposals, linking them to education.
"The economic plan my opponent has would cut our investment in education by nearly 20 percent," he said. "It would cut those grants so deeply that 1 million of those students who we have helped would no longer get a scholarship at all. It would cut financial aid for nearly 10 million students a year and keep in mind they're not making these cuts to create jobs. They're not proposing these cuts to pay down the deficit. Gov. Romney is proposing these cuts to pay for a new $5 trillion tax cut that's weighted towards the wealthiest Americans."
Obama has traveled to Ohio 26 times taking office and this was his tenth trip to the state this election year, according to the campaign. A July 24-30 New York Times/CBS poll showed the president leading Romney 50 percent to 44 percent in Ohio, with 4 percent of voters still undecided.