Santorum in Eastern Iowa calls to reduce federal higher ed support

BY ZACHARY POUND | JULY 07, 2011 7:20 AM

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum said Wednesday that the federal government should reduce higher-education funding and leave that support to states.

Speaking to Kirkwood Community College officials and eastern Iowa business leaders on the Kirkwood campus on the fourth day of a tour around the state, the GOP presidential-nomination hopeful said colleges ought to partner with local businesses to prep grads for the workforce.

“We need to look for partnerships in the private sector in order to best ensure that students will be ready to enter the working sector,” he said.

While the bulk of public university funding has historically come from the state, the federal government plays a huge role in financial support for students. Santorum’s education plans do not include increasing federal Pell Grants, for instance, which aid thousands of Iowa students annually.

At the University of Iowa, approximately $1.7 million was awarded to students last year. Roughly 20 percent of UI undergraduates, more that 4,300 students, receive some form of a Pell Grant.

“[Pell Grants] are a significant source of funding for thousands of college undergraduates,” said Mark Warner, the director of UI Student Financial Aid. “It’s the largest federal grant program for appropriating money to the neediest students.”

Mick Starcevich, the president of Kirkwood Community College, said he was impressed with how Santorum “was very straightforward” and with Santorum’s dedication to helping workforce development serve their communities.

“He realizes how important preparing students for college is,” Starcevich said.

The candidate also elaborated on the importance of bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.

Last week, President Obama spoke about the importance of manufacturing jobs during a stop in Bettendorf, but Virginia Davis, a spokeswoman for Santorum’s campaign, said Wednesday’s forum was in no way a response to the president’s trip.

“Santorum has been focused on improving manufacturing jobs for months,” she said.

And improving jobs in the U.S. was a main concern.

“Besides bringing jobs back to the companies located here in the United States, we need to get foreign companies to invest their factories and jobs here in this country,” Santorum said.

He pointed to Kirkwood specifically as an institution that’s prepping students well.

“I’ve always been impressed with Kirkwood,” he said. “It’s meeting the needs of people in our society that are not prepared for more advanced work.”

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