Barack Obama pushes low-rate student loans

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) - President Barack Obama went after the college vote Tuesday, pitching cheaper student loans as he courted the one age group where he has a decided advantage over Republican rival Mitt Romney. The twist? Romney, too, has endorsed the idea.

But it's unclear whether deficit-leery Republicans in Congress will go along.

Obama told students at the University of North Carolina that he personally understood the burden of college costs, saying that he and first lady Michelle Obama had "been in your shoes" and didn't pay off their student loans until eight years ago.

"I didn't just read about this. I didn't just get some talking points about this. I didn't just get a policy briefing on this," Obama said. "We didn't come from wealthy families. When we graduated from college and law school, we had a mountain of debt. When we married, we got poor together."

Obama's emphasis on his personal experience set up a contrast with Romney, whose father was a wealthy auto executive. It's a point the president is sure to return to during this summer's campaigning.

"We didn't come from families of means," Obama said. "But we knew that if we worked hard we'd have a shot."

By taking on student debt, Obama spoke to middle-class America and also targeted a growing economic burden that could hamper the national recovery.

He is also heading to campuses in the West and Midwest to sell his message to colleges audiences bound to support it.

While leaning on Republicans in Congress to act, he also sought to energize the young people essential to his campaign - those who voted for him last time and the many more who have turned voting age since then.

Obama urged students to go to social media sites like Twitter to pressure their lawmakers to prevent the interest rates on the loans "from shooting up and shaking you down."

Both Obama and Romney have expressed support for freezing the current interest rates on the loans for poorer and middle-class students but lawmakers are still exploring ways to pay for the plan.

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