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New Obama Ads Tout Goal of Cutting Tuition and Attack Romney on Pell Grants

As part of a two-minute campaign advertisement released on Thursday, President Obama outlines an economic plan, called “a new economic patriotism,” that includes his pledge to reduce college tuition and expand federal student aid.

Speaking directly to a camera, Mr. Obama says that the United States will remain competitive by ”training two million Americans with the job skills they need at our community colleges, cutting the growth of tuition in half, and expanding student aid so more Americans can afford it.”

Mr. Obama first made those promises this month in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention.

He said in that speech that the 50-percent reduction in tuition growth would occur over a decade but offered no details about how to achieve such a goal.

Earlier this year Mr. Obama proposed basing a college’s receipt of federal student aid on whether it slowed the growth of tuition and produced good student outcomes. The plan, which contained few specifics, drew criticism from many higher-education leaders, and Congressional Republicans spoke out against it.

The ad, to be broadcast in seven battleground states, is meant to appeal to voters who supported Mr. Obama in 2008 but who are now undecided, according to the Associated Press.

College affordability has been an increasingly popular topic for advertisements in the presidential campaign, especially when it comes to courting Hispanic voters. On Wednesday the Obama campaign released a Spanish-language ad deriding Mitt Romney’s policies as bad for students.

“President Romney. What would that mean? For our kids, a difficult path to the university,” a narrator says. “Up to two million Hispanic students would see their Pell Grants cut by almost $1,000. Thousands more would lose access to the Work-Study Program. And with his plan, fewer resources for community colleges.”

“Register [to vote] today,” the narrator urges, “so that Romney doesn’t close these doors on us.”

Mr. Obama’s ad comes a week after his Republican challenger released a Spanish-language ad of his own, blaming the president and Democrats for rising tuition and soaring student debt.

The two candidates’ dueling Spanish-language ads may reflect two key statistics about Hispanic undergraduates—40 percent receive Pell Grants and more than half attend community colleges—according to federal data compiled by the Education Trust and the American Association of Community Colleges, respectively.

Mr. Romney has been more vocal in support of the Pell Grant program in recent days. Speaking at a forum hosted by Univision, a Spanish-language television network, Mr. Romney distanced himself from the Pell Grant provision of the House Republican budget, which was crafted by his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

“The Republican budget called for Pell Grants’ being capped out at their current level,” he said at the event. “My inclination would be to have them go with the rate of inflation.”

Mr. Ryan’s budget proposal would have tightened eligibility requirements for Pell Grants and limited the maximum award.

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