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Ed. Dept. on Perry's Hit List; GOP Candidates Talk Student Loans

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said in a Republican debate tonight that he wants to scrap three federal agencies: the U.S. Department of Education, the Commerce Department ... and a third player-to-be-named-later.

"It's three agencies of government that are gone when I get there. ... Commerce ... Education ..." and then Perry trailed off. Other candidates at the Rochester, Mich., debate suggested maybe he meant the Environmental Protection Agency? Perry couldn't remember for sure. (Later in the debate, he landed on the Department of Energy.)

And, actually, Perry's own education plan doesn't call for scrapping the U.S. Department of Education. He would only get rid of about half of the department.

During the debate, which was hosted by CNBC, candidates also answered a question about what they would do about the massive increase in student loan debt. Tuition rates have increased much faster than inflation in recent years.

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, called the policy of "student loans a total failure. ... I mean a trillion dollars of debt? To be dumped on the taxpayer. ... There's nothing more dramatically failing than that program. ... We should get rid of the loan programs, we should get rid of the Department of Education."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said the student loan program is an "absurdity." He said it expands the ability of students to stay in college longer because "they don't see the cost." He talked about a school, the College of the Ozarks, where students must work 20 hours a week to pay for their education.

Perry said the feds should be considering "how we can make these universities efficient" including by using technology.

"Let our kids have the opportunity to get an education through long-distance learning," he said.

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