Reality Check: Obama ad attacks Romney on college aid

Obama to speak at UW-Madison Thursday
Reality Check: Obama ad attacks Romney on college aid

In the week he’ll speak to college students and others on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, President Barack Obama is using a TV ad to attack Mitt Romney’s plans for college aid.

“Mitt Romney on how to pay for college and start a business,” the announcer says in the ad, which is followed by a quote from Romney.

“Take the risk, get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents,” Romney says in the ad.

WISC-TV found this needs clarification. Romney made these comments in a speech at Otterbein University. He was speaking of what he felt was the president penalizing those who had done well by raising tax rates on higher tax brackets and making it not possible for entrepreneurs to find money to realize their dreams. He wasn’t directly talking about college costs.

“Hope they can afford it,” the announcer in the ad continues. “Romney’s plans could cut college aid for nearly 10 million students and eliminate the tax deduction for college tuition.”

WISC-TV found this also needs clarification. Obama is referring to the budget plan authored by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP vice presidential nominee, which passed the U.S. House and which Romney supported, and how need-based Pell grants would be funded under that plan.

In the budget, Ryan specified more than $2 trillion in spending cuts to the budget. Obama’s statement assumes that those spending cuts are made evenly across the board and would reduce Pell grants by about a $1,000 for 9.6 million students.

But the Ryan budget doesn’t say exactly how much Pell grants would be cut. Instead, a report that went along with the budget makes recommendations for changes. They include an income cap for eligible students, eliminating eligibility for less than half-time students and a maximum award of just more than $5,500. White House experts assume budget cuts would be made to Pell grants, but based on the budget documents actually passed, it can’t be determined how much Pell grants would be cut.

On the tax deduction issue, that claim is true. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found Romney would eliminate the expanded deduction for college tuition that was enacted in the 2009 stimulus plan.

“President Obama eliminated bank middlemen from college loans and used the savings to double college grants,” the announcer says in the ad.

WISC-TV found this is true. In March 2010, the president signed a bill that allowed students to borrow money directly from the government, cutting subsidies to private banks who provided the loans. The bill then expanded Pell grants over the next decade.

According to the Department of Education, the amount of money spent on Pell grants has doubled, the recipients of them hasn’t quite. In 2008, 6.1 million students were recipients, and now 9.7 million students are projected to get them in 2013.

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