02/29/2012 02:36 pm ET

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

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.



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