Rick Santorum Alienates College Students and Shoots Himself in the Foot With 'Snob' Comment

In a rather foolhardy and poorly thought-out attempt to take a swipe at Barack Obama, GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum called the president a “snob” on Saturday for wanting all Americans to attend college. 

During the single greatest economic downturns in U.S. history, how can a politician or presidential candidate say that a college education is anything but a desirable asset for any American? This coment may help spell the end for Santorum’s campaign, as this comment will likely alienate young voters and even their parents from voting for him.


Though Santorum padded his “snob” comment during the speech by stating that “not all folks are gifted in the same way … some people have incredible gifts with their hands. Some people have incredible gifts and … want to work out there making things,"  this tactic hardly negates the fact that college-educated Americans enjoy the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S. when education is used to measure the survivability of prospective hires and working professionals.

With the economy as the number one concern this election, how can anyone – let alone a presidential candidate – say that a college education is anything but a boon to those who can afford to attend and graduate?

Santorum should be the last person to say that a college education is for “snobs," especially given his background. Santorum has three college degrees – including a BA and JD from Penn State and an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh – so it seems quite hypocritical for him to mock Obama’s position on making college education accessible. Santorum once touted his support of accessible higher education as a key part of his senatorial race in 2006. In the eyes of any sensible voter Santorum looks like a hypocrite and a flip-flopper – something he and other anti-Romney opponents have used during their campaigns.

By Sunday, it seemed that Santorum was not quite as sure of his own statements as shown during his interview on Meet the Press:

 

It appears as though Santorum is not so sure of how to manage his public relations fiasco – as he acknowledges value in higher education. But he’s still stubborn when he tries to explain his “snob” comment by trying to fall back on the “college is not for everyone” defense.

What was most interesting was when Santorum to told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that: “I think because there are lot of people in this country that have no desire or no aspiration to go to college, because they have a different set of skills and desires and dreams that don’t include college … And to sort of lay out there that somehow this should be everybody’s goal, I think, devalues the tremendous work that people who, frankly, don’t go to college and don’t want to go to college because they have a lot of other talents and skills that, frankly, college, you know, four-year colleges may not be able to assist them.” This point on the value of higher is legitimate in that it asks us whether or not a college education helps those who attend.

A college education may not automatically grant success and economic security for all who matriculate, but, in the long run, a college education will ensure that a college graduate will earn substantially more than those who don’t attend college at all. Based on a recent report from Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce, it appears that the major chosen by each student will factor into their employment prospects. Going back, the Center also noted in another report that graduates with a bachelor’s degree will on average  earn 75% more income than a high school graduate. This report notes that the higher your degree, the more you earn over the course of our lifetime.

Santorum’s accusation of “indoctrination” by “liberal college professors” was perhaps the last nail on the coffin for his argument that higher education is not for everyone. In his interview with Stephanopoulos, he stated that: “[When] you look at the colleges and universities … This is not something that’s new for most Americans, is how liberal our colleges and universities are and how many children in fact are – look, I’ve gone through it. I went through it at Penn State … [When] [y]ou talk to most kids who go to college who are conservatives, and you are singled out, you are ridiculed — I can tell you personally ... I went through a process where I was docked for my conservative views. This is sort of a regular routine. You know the statistic … 62% of kids who enter college with some sort of faith commitment leave without it. [The American college campus] is not a neutral setting.”

So, if college graduates come out as more moderate individuals, this would be considered a bad thing? What is also curious is where he got his 62% from. I think that people’s beliefs are never swept away in college; they are tempered by becoming enlightened through an educated examination of the nature of our basic principles. College provides a time to think about the implications of the beliefs we went in with. If our beliefs change, then perhaps it’s for the better as we use of intellect to test the durability of our beliefs. Is change good? It depends; but it isn’t a bad idea for us to examine ourselves with an educated mind.

Just as public faux pas ended Texas Governor Rick Perry's and Herman Cain’s campaigns, this “snob” comment may spell the end of Santorum. A college education is a pathway to personal economic security and the future of the American economy as it is the recognized trend for economic development in the 21st Century. China and other rivals are all pushing higher education as their top priorities for economic growth. The next U.S. president needs to do the same.

Photo Credit: DSC_2726

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Dillon Zhou

Dillon currently works as a Foreign Teacher at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China in Chengdu. He graduated from International Relations Program at the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2012. He previously worked at the Cyber Conflict Studies Association in Vienna, VA as a research assistant. He has also worked at the US Embassy in Tirana, Albania and JFK Library's Declassification Unit. His primary areas of interests are in US-China Relations and US Cyber Security Policy. He is proficient in speaking and reading Mandarin Chinese.

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