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College Debt Continues to Steal Campaign Spotlight

By Alyson Klein — April 03, 2012 1 min read
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Sorry K-12 fans. It looks like higher education is eating up most of the airtime this election season.

On the heels of an Associated Press article that set up a doomsday scenario—essentially, that rising student loan debt has become a direct threat to the nation’s economic stability—Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Vice President Joe Biden held an event in the swing state of Virginia on college aid. And, this afternoon, Biden held a twitter townhall event, fielding questions about college affordability. (He got a lot of off-topic queries, as you can see.)

The administration is trying to tout its plans to stabilize Pell Grants, which have faced a major shortfall, and its push to ensure that student loan interest rates don’t double later this year, from 3.4 to 6.8 percent. (Republicans, on the other hand, counter that the rate increase was not addressed when Democrats controlled Congress, so it’s unfair for them to call for a change now. And they say Pell Grant spending is out of control in part because Democrats upped the maximum grant too quickly.)

Biden repeated the administration’s commitment to making sure all kids can afford to go to college. He hit all the big rhetorical flourishes, saying higher education will help the next generation isolate the cancer gene and invent whatever gadget will make the iPhone 4 look like a rotary phone.

“The only way you can be part of it is with a good education,” Biden said in Virginia. “And that’s what Barack and I are determined for you to get.”