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Romney chides Obama on lack of good jobs for college grads

April 23, 2012|By Maeve Reston
  • Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign stop with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in Aston, Pennsylvania.
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt… (Jessica Kourkounis / Getty…)

In anticipation of President Obama’s focus on education this week, Mitt Romney pointed to an analysis showing more than half of college graduates under 25 were either jobless or underemployed.

Romney, campaigning in Pennsylvania on Monday, also reminded voters that Obama declared during his 2008 address at the Democratic convention that progress could be measured by whether people are able to get good jobs that pay for a mortgage.

“Well, under his three-and-a-half years so far, we’ve had roughly 24 million Americans out of work, or underemployed or dropped out of the workforce altogether. I saw a report this morning that just about half of all the kids coming out of college can’t find work or are underemployed. Can you imagine?” Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, said in South Park, Pa. “So on his own measure – people getting good jobs that can pay a mortgage, he’s failed. It’s time to get a president who can succeed.”

Romney was referring to an analysis by the Associated Press, which found 53.6% of college graduates either could not find a job or were “underemployed,” defined as holding jobs that don’t fully use their skills or knowledge.

About 1.5 million, or 53.6%, of bachelor's degree holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years, according to government statistics and analysis by university researchers. In 2000, the share was at a low of 41%, before the dot-com bust erased job gains for college graduates in the telecommunications and IT fields. Out of the 1.5 million who struggled in the job market, about half were underemployed, an increase from the previous year, the AP study found.

After wrapping up a press conference with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in Chester Township, Pa., Romney came back to the microphone to state his position on student loan interest rates, an issue Obama also plans to discuss this week. Obama will travel to several university campuses to repeat his call for Congress to act before interest rates on student loans rise.

Congress has until July to take action on the Stafford Loan program. If lawmakers don’t extend the lower rates by July 1, the interest rates could more than double, from 3.2% to 6.8%. The issue gives Obama a popular talking point as he visits three battleground states -- North Carolina, Colorado and Iowa.

Previewing his push last weekend in his radio address, Obama set his college affordability message into his larger campaign theme about economic fairness.

"We've got to build an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules,” Obama said. “That's how the middle class gets stronger. That's an economy that’s built to last. And I'm not only going to take that case to college campuses next week -- I'm going to take it to every part of the country this year.”

Romney said he “fully supports” preserving the lower interest rate on Stafford loans – pointing out that students need the break because of a dismal job market.

“There was some concern that that would expire halfway through the year and I support extending the temporary relief on interest rates for students as a result of – as a result of student loans, obviously – in part because of the extraordinarily poor conditions in the job market,” Romney said.

Romney also mentioned the AP analysis when a reporter asked how he planned to appeal to young voters in swing states.

“I think young voters in this country have to vote for me if they're really thinking of what's in the best interest of the country and what's in their personal best interest,” Romney said. He argued that Obama’s policies had led to “extraordinary statistics.”

“When you look at 50% of kids coming out of college today can't find a job, or can't find a job which is consistent with their skills—how in the world can you be supporting a president that's led to that kind of an economy? And then the debt that's been amassed that they're going to have to pay off all their lives?... He promised a future with good jobs and good opportunity.  That hasn't happened. And the pathway that he pursued is not one that worked. Young people recognize that and that's why I think they're going to increasingly look for a different approach.”

Staff writer Christi Parsons contributed from Washington, D.C.

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