In the first presidential debate, held at the University of Denver on Wednesday night, Republican nominee Mitt Romney said he wouldn't cut federal spending on education, and that he expects spending on the Pell Grant to continue to grow. While the 90-minute debate was peppered with references to education, including higher education, Romney's remarks were the only new policy statements on how the next administration (of either party) might deal with colleges and universities.
But given Romney's support for tough domestic spending cuts, and a consensus even among supporters of the Pell Grant that the program's growth must be contained, the statement was something of a surprise. Obama argued that his challenger's math didn't add up — that Romney couldn't cut both taxes and the deficit and also protect his budget priorities.
Community colleges also got some airtime during the debate, as President Obama praised them as a source for job training programs and Romney vowed to streamline those programs. But the two candidates largely stuck to older campaign themes on higher education issues, including Obama citing ending bank-based student loan program as an accomplishment of his administration.
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