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Santorum competes with Romney for support from for-profit colleges

GOP presidential hopeful says President Obama has ‘waged war’ on for-profit education, pledges support for private-sector colleges

Santorum competes with Romney for support from for-profit colleges
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Santorum said “the corruption of culture” in America could be traced to the country’s most prestigious campuses.

Surging Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, a longtime critic of public education, said at a recent campaign stop that President Obama has “waged war” against for-profit colleges that could serve as job-training centers in the recovering economy.

Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator who has vaulted to the top of the Republican primary polls in recent weeks, outlined a plan for for-profit schools – many with vast online programs for nontraditional students – if he were to win the presidency.

Santorum’s advocacy for companies that operate for-profit schools comes just weeks after former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney presented Orlando-based for-profit campus Full Sail University as a model for how higher education should operate.

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At a campaign event at the Detroit Economic Club ahead of the GOP’s March 1 Michigan primary, Santorum criticized Obama for pushing regulations on the for-profit education industry even after national statistics showed skyrocketing dropout and loan default rates at those schools.

“And what we’ve seen in this president is an assault on those very schools that do most of the training out there, and that’s the private schools,” he said. “This president has had a war on private education. … He believes that private sector schools are somehow evil and they’re abusive, and his Education Department has done everything they could to make it harder for them to compete for loans and other things and to stay in business.”

Santorum said he would ensure for-profit colleges are “funded like any other school” and become hubs for training workers who require further education to qualify for open jobs.

David Halperin, a senior fellow for United Republic, a site that tracks how money is used in national politics, said Santorum has made it clear that he will compete for the support of for-profit college executives that have, so far, coalesced behind Romney.

Santorum “appears ready to compete on yet another plane [with Romney],” Halperin wrote in a blog post for Republic Report. “Call it the For-Profit College Primary, with no delegates but lots of campaign cash up for grabs.”

Santorum, whose children attended a private online charter school in Pennsylvania, is no stranger when it comes to skepticism of public higher education. In an August 2008 speech to students at Ave Maria University, a private Catholic university in Florida, Santorum charged that the “root” of America’s moral failings stems from the corruption of higher education.

“The place where [Satan] was the most successful and the first successful was in academia,” he said. “He understood the pride of smart people. He attacked them at their weakest [and said] that they were in fact smarter than everybody else. … Academia, a long time ago, fell.”

Santorum said “the corruption of culture” in America could be traced to the country’s most prestigious campuses.

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