Are Santorum’s comments on higher ed out of step?

Santorum has three college degrees.

When Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum calls President Barack Obama “a snob” for wanting all Americans to attend college, he may be out of step with the public’s overall view of higher education.

Many Americans are suspicious of the culture of academia, and most are angry about rising costs. But they overwhelmingly — and increasingly — agree that higher education is important and aspire to it for themselves and their children.

On the campaign trail, Santorum has criticized what he perceives as the liberal nature of the higher education community. He upped the ante on his arguments leading into Tuesday’s primaries in Michigan and Arizona.

“President Obama has said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob,” Santorum said Saturday. “There are good, decent men and women who go out and work hard every day, and put their skills to test, who aren’t taught by some liberal college professor (who) tries to indoctrinate them. I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image. I want to create jobs so people can remake their children into their image, not his.”

Santorum mischaracterized Obama’s comments. In fact, the president has called for all Americans to obtain some form of education beyond high school, although not necessarily four-year colleges as Santorum has repeatedly implied, and for the United States to regain the global lead in those with college degrees by 2020.

Many of Obama’s higher-education initiatives, including a proposed $8 billion fund unveiled as part of his budget proposal earlier this month, focus on workforce development at community colleges that award certificates and degrees of less than four years.

The president, addressing governors at the White House on Monday, emphasized that goal again.

“When I speak about higher education we’re not just talking about a four-year degree,” he said. “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.”