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Primary preview: Checking Santorum's college claim

By Robert Higgs, Louis Jacobson
Published on Wednesday, February 29th, 2012 at 4:20 p.m.

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum kicked up a media storm when he slammed President Barack Obama as a "snob" at an Americans for Prosperity forum in Troy, Mich., on Feb. 25, 2012.

"President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college," Santorum said. "What a snob. 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 that (tries) to indoctrinate them."

The issue received such attention that Obama on Feb. 27 addressed the issue obliquely, telling the National Governors Association that "the jobs of the future are increasingly going to those with more than a high school degree. And I have to make a point here. When I speak about higher education, we’re not just talking about a four-year degree. 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. We all want Americans getting those jobs of the future. So we’re going to have to make sure that they’re getting the education that they need."

Obama has made no secret that he encourages Americans to go to college and has pursued policies to expand access to those who want to go. But has he gone so far as to say that he "wants everybody in America to go to college."

We took a look at Obama’s past speeches, using both Nexis and the White House website, to locate instances in which he broached the topic.

We found 18 examples. All but three of them make clear that Obama does not expect every young American to attend a traditional four-year, bachelors-degree-granting college or university or even a community college. In three cases, Obama did say something closer to what Santorum suggested, but still not enough to justify Santorum's claim.

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Researchers: Louis Jacobson

Names in this article: Barack Obama, Rick Santorum

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