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President Obama Calls For More Higher Ed Funding As Republicans Defend Him Against Attacks

Obama Built

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 02/29/2012 1:36 pm Updated: 02/29/2012 1:36 pm

President Obama got support from an unlikely ally against GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum's "snob" comment -- namely, Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich, a former House Speaker and presidential candidate, said Obama was "perfectly reasonable" asserting that all Americans should get some form of higher education beyond high school.

Santorum, a former Senator, sparked controversy when he called the president a "snob" for encouraging people to attend a college. Santorum insisted the president wanted students to go to colleges because they were "indoctrination mills" that would "make students in [Obama's] image."

Gingrich didn't share Santorum's sentiment.

"Everybody in America is going have to get re-educated all the time because jobs are going to change, technology is going to change," Gingrich said Monday on the Today Show, "and if we're going to compete in the world market, we both have to have the best equipment and the best training."

Gingrich even suggested tying unemployment benefits to a requirement of getting vocational training or entering a community college.

Gingrich has been critical of public universities in the past, but was himself a former college professor.

The former House Speaker is not the first prominent Republican to support the president on education policy.

Obama was able to find a number of Republican governors who agreed with him on education policy this week after he addressed the National Governors Association in Washington, D.C.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) said it was "one area we agree on." New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said Santorum's "snob" comment "didn't make any sense." Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) said he wants "more college graduates" in his own state.

"I'm pushing in Virginia this year 100,000 new degrees over the next 15 years," McDonnell said.

While meeting with the NGA this week, Obama urged the nation's governors to stop cutting higher education.

"Nothing more clearly signals what you value as a state than the decisions you make about where to invest," Obama said Monday. "Budgets are about choices. ... But more than 40 states have cut funding for higher education over the past year. And this is just the peak of what has been a long-term trend in reduced state support for higher education. And state budget cuts have been among the largest factor in tuition hikes at public colleges over the past decade."

The president repeated that colleges should be doing everything they can to keep tuition down, and that they are "on notice." He said the federal government was doing its part by keeping an investment in Pell grants, but put the challenge to states to reinvest in higher education.

Related on HuffPost:

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  • Rein In Costs

    President Obama's FY 2013 budget <a href="" target="_hplink">would create</a> a $1 billion "Race to the Top" fund for colleges. In addition, Obama is seeking a $55 million to fund the "First in the World" program for colleges that "encourage productivity and efficiency." Obama is also proposing to <a href="" target="_hplink">increase federally funded research</a> at universities in certain areas. The National Institutes of Health would see no funding increase, for instance, but new <a href="" target="_hplink">policies would increase</a> the money available for grants by 7 percent. Other <a href="" target="_hplink">research areas</a> would see between 1 percent and as much as a 110 percent increase in funding grant spending.

  • Community Colleges

    Obama's budget offers an <a href="" target="_hplink">$8 billion proposal</a> to encourage colleges and businesses to work together to train 2 million workers in high-growth industries. Obama would include <a href="" target="_hplink">financial incentives</a> to ensure that students find permanent jobs. <a href="" target="_hplink">Inside Higher Ed</a> reports the money would also support paid internships for low-income college students.

  • For-Profit Colleges

    Some of the president's budget initiatives would <a href="" target="_hplink">shut out for-profit</a> colleges. Obama would enact <a href="" target="_hplink">stricter rules on for-profit colleges</a>. For-profits <a href="" target="_hplink">would not be eligible</a> for money from the "Race to the Top" or "First in the World" programs, nor would they get any research grants. During <a href="" target="_hplink">Obama's tenure</a>, for-profits have increasingly come under scrutiny by the administration and been subject to investigations by Congress.

  • Pell Grants

    The maximum Pell grant award would be bumped up by a hair to $5,635, an increase of $85. Pell grants have not been adjusted to the cost of college over the <a href="" target="_hplink">past 30 years, but were <a href="" target="_hplink">spared during 2011 budget negotiations</a>.

  • Other Financial Aid

    Obama's budget would increase spending on the federal work study program <a href="" target="_hplink">by 15 percent</a>. The president is also calling for suspending a student loan interest rate <a href="" target="_hplink">scheduled to double</a> this summer. Inside Higher Ed <a href="" target="_hplink">reports</a> the funding formula for the Perkins federal student loan program would be "revamped" to push colleges to keep net tuition low and provide "good value." That value would be based on the ability of graduating students to get jobs and pay off their loans, as well as a school serving a higher proportion of low-income students. Obama is also requesting a 390 percent increase in teacher education assistance, upping the allocation from $41 to $201 million. This is particularly tailored <a href="" target="_hplink">to train more</a> science and math teachers.