In an apparent pitch to young voters, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney went out of his way on Monday to tout his support for efforts to extend low interest rates on student loans, telling reporters that "I fully support the effort to extend the low interest rate on student loans."
Some Republicans have opposed the extension on the grounds that it would come at a high cost to taxpayers. On this issue, however, Romney seems to see eye-to-eye with President Obama.
Romney, who had just ended a press availability alongside Sen. Marco Rubio, a possible VP pick, returned to the microphone to make sure that he had expressed his support for the extension of low interest rates for students, which are set to expire in July.
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"There's one thing I want to mention that I forgot to mention at the very beginning, and that was that particularly with the mention of the number of college graduates that can't find work or that can only find work well beneath their skill level, I fully support the effort to extend the low interest rate on student loans," Romney said.
He added that there was "some concern" that the low interest rates would expire halfway through the year, and he emphasized that "I support extending the temporary relief on interest rates for students as a result of--as a result of student loans, obviously--in part because of the extraordinarily poor conditions in the job market."
Some of the "concern" Romney mentioned is coming from Obama. The president, who is visiting colleges in North Carolina, Colorado, and Iowa this week, has repeatedly emphasized his administration's efforts to ease the burden of debt on young people seeking higher education, and he is strongly urging Congress to extend the low interest rates, which will jump from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent without an extension.
"In America, higher education cannot be a luxury," Obama said on Saturday during his weekly radio and Internet address. "It's an economic imperative that every family must be able to afford."
The president cast the issue as a matter of "values" and suggested that Republicans were getting in the way of helping middle-class families send their kids to college.
"We cannot let America become a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of people struggle to get by," he said.
Obama's reelection campaign seized on Romney's position as inconsistent, given his support of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's budget blueprint and his willingness to consider cutting education spending.
"While he previously endorsed the Ryan budget, which would make deep cuts to Pell Grants and allow student loan rates to double, and last week said that he would gut the Department of Education to pay for his tax plan, today we heard yet another—and contradictory—position from Romney on student loans," spokeswoman Lis Smith said.
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