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Student loan debate shifts spotlight to young voters

College students were the center of attention Tuesday as Republicans and Democrats spent the day trying to woo the fickle voting block.

President Obama took the day off from the Oval Office to promote the extension of interest rate cuts on government-run student loans on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

Tuesday morning  Mitt Romney’s campaign held a call with reporters to point out that the cost of attending college has increased 25 percent under the Obama administration. It’s heavy handed management of America’s higher education system have increased costs dramatically, said  campaign spokespersons. The campaign said the government should get out of the student loan business, “and let the free market back in.”

Romney agrees with Obama, though, that the interest rate cuts on Stafford student loans should be extended.

Today, Obama will speak at the University of Iowa, where he will likely give the same speech he gave at the University of North Carolina (UNC) and at the University of Colorado – Boulder on Tuesday.

Obama’s speeches attempted to connect primarily with college students who have accumulated debt through student loans, but he also discussed his upcoming appearance on late night television with Jimmy Fallon and the Dave Matthews Band. At UNC he reminded students that their school was his pick to win the NCAA March Madness tournament.

President Obama noted that tuition and fees for colleges have nearly doubled, but he recalled his efforts to curtail these increases differently than his presumptive opponent for the presidency.

Obama said that since taking office, he had fought tooth and nail to get private banks out of the student loan process, which he said leads to more government involvement in the process.

“We cant price the middle class out of a college education,” he said.

Obama, who declined to vote on the original bill to temporarily reduce interest rates on Stafford Loans twice in 2007, said he told Congress “to steer federal aid to those that keep tuition affordable.” To universities he warned that “if you cant stop tuition from going up every single year, a lot faster than inflation, then funding you get from taxpayers, at the federal level, will go down, because we need to push colleges to do better and hold them accountable.”

Although the appearances were official White House visits, Obama took time to criticize House Republicans for not supporting the  extension of cuts to interest rates on the Stafford loans. Obama chided Republicans in Congress for saying  they would cut other financial aid to offset the costs of the student loan extension, yet he never mentioned how the interest rate cuts, which will cost $6 billion a year, would be paid for.

Obama also made sure to throw in a nonchalant shout out for investing in clean energy businesses versus subsidizing oil companies.

“I want everybody to be rich,” he said. ” I want everybody to work and hustle and start businesses, study your tails off to get there.”

At the end of his speech, Obama encouraged students to tweet the hashtag #dontdoublemyrate to make their voices heard.

Obama’s will speak at approximately 1 pm today at the University of Iowa. You can watch a livestream of the event on

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