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Posted at 03:10 PM ET, 02/27/2012

Obama hits back against Santorum ‘snob’ criticism by defending college education stance

This post has been updated.

President Obama on Monday defended his stance that higher education is critical to preparing Americans to compete in the global workforce, offering a tacit rebuke to Republican rival Rick Santorum who called Obama a “snob” for wanting everyone to go to college.


President Obama greets members of the audience after speaking about his fiscal 2013 federal budget and his education initiatives, Monday, Feb. 13, 2012, at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Va. (Susan Walsh - AP)

Speaking to the National Governors Association, Obama called on the group to protect public investment in education at a time of shrinking state budgets so that teachers remain in the classroom.

Obama did not mention GOP presidential candidate Santorum by name in his remarks. But the president paused to say he wanted to make a specific point when it came to higher education.

“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 president added: “We all want Americans to get those jobs of the future. We need to make sure they get the education they need.”

Obama’s remarks came just two days after Santorum told a tea party group in Michigan that Obama is a “snob” because he wants “everybody in America to go to college.”

“Not all folks are gifted in the same way,” Santorum told a crowd of more than 1,000 activists at the Americans for Prosperity forum in Troy, Mich. “Some people have incredible gifts with their hands. Some people have incredible gifts and ... want to work out there making things. President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob.”

Santorum is targeting working-class voters in his bid for the White House. Though he holds more college degrees than Obama, Santorum added: “There are good decent men and women who go out and work hard every day and put their skills to test that aren’t taught by some liberal college professor trying to indoctrinate them. Oh, I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image. I want to create jobs so people can remake their children into their image, not his.”

Asked about Santorum’s remarks Monday at his daily briefing, White House press secretary Jay Carney said: “I don’t think any parent in America who has a child would think it snobbery to hope for that child to get the best possible education in the future, and that includes college.”

Several of the Republican governors who were present for Obama’s remarks distanced themselves from Santorum and said they agreed with the president on encouraging more young people to attend college.

“I wish he’d said it differently,” Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), who has endorsed Mitt Romney in the GOP presidential nomination fight, said of Santorum. “I’m pushing in Virginia this year 100,000 new degrees over the next 15 years. I want more college graduates.. . . There’s no question, when you look at what’s going on in other countries, China, India, the premium they put on higher education, we’ve got to do better if we still want to be the global leader we are.”

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), who also is backing Romney, said Obama "has a good strong message on education. In Arizona, we’re trying to implement the things that he talked about. It’s one area in which we agree on. We all know how important education is to our state and our country.”

In addressing the governors, Obama touted his recent proposal to help college students consolidate loans, and he referred to his personal history to make his case that having government help to attend college is important.

He said his mother raised two children “by herself while still going to college because she was able to get grants.” The president added that he and first lady Michelle Obama, both highly educated lawyers, “are only here today because of school and student loans that gave us a shot at a great education.”

Obama said that more than 40 states have cut higher education funding over the past year, “part of a long-term trend of reduced state support for higher education.”

“Too many states are making cuts to education that I think are too big,” Obama said. “Today, I’m calling on all of you to invest more in education. Invest more in our children and our future.”

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By  |  03:10 PM ET, 02/27/2012

Tags:  President Barack Obama, Higher Education, Rick Santorum, National Governors Association

 
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