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Santorum Claims Obama College Agenda is Elitist

For a politician to argue against the value of college for all is about as expected as coming out against apple pie.

But over the weekend, GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum characterized the Obama administration as elitist in its push for college access and completion.

Santorum's recent comment that's causing a stir: "President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college," Santorum said to a crowd of Tea Party activists in Troy, Mich., on Feb. 25 "What a snob."

On ABC's This Week, with George Stephanopoulos, Santorum elaborated on the theme Sunday. "There are a lot of people in this country that have no desire or no aspiration to go to college, because they have a different set of skills and desires and dreams that don't include college," he said. "And to sort of lay out there that somehow this is should be everybody's goal, I think, devalues the tremendous work that people who, frankly, don't go to college and don't want to go to college because they have a lot of other talents and skills that, frankly, college, you know, four-year colleges may not be able to assist them."

Stephanopolous followed up, asking if there is something wrong with encouraging college education.

Santorum replied: "No, not at all, but understand that we have some real problems at our college campuses with political correctness, with an ideology that is forced upon people who, you know, who may not agree with the politically correct left doctrine."

Santorum expressed support for technical schools and vocational training as an alternative to college — as does Obama.

The president's agenda for improving affordability to postsecondary education includes a broad definition of "college." The administration promotes certificates in vocational training, associate's degrees from community colleges, and bachelor's degrees from universities.

Obama clarified his position today in a speech to the National Governors Association.

"I have to make a point here: When I speak about higher education, we're not just talking about a four-year degree," Obama said. "We're talking about somebody going to a community college and getting trained for that manufacturing job that now is requiring somebody walking through the door handling a million-dollar piece of equipment. And they can't go in there unless they've got some basic training beyond what they received in high school."

The argument for higher education is often made in terms of economics. Recent research underscores the significant financial advantage of postsecondary training on lifetime earnings. While young Americans have been hit hard in the recent recession, those with a college degree were far less likely to be unemployed than those who did not.

"We all want Americans getting those jobs of the future, so we're going to have to make sure they're getting the education they need," Obama said today.

Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have framed the issue of college access as the pathway to the American dream.

We'll have to wait and watch to see how voters respond to this debate.

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