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EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Democrat Mark Schauer on Wednesday criticized Republican Gov. Rick Snyder for a 15 percent cut in funding for public universities in 2011, saying it's a factor in students' rising debt.
The Snyder campaign, meanwhile, questioned why Schauer's running mate recently said former Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm's time in office was not "as bad as we think."
The candidates' attacks and counterattacks, in what is a close race, will only intensify in the final six weeks until Election Day.
Schauer, appearing at a "Degrees Not Debt" event with college students and leaders of national and state teachers' unions, said he could afford college because of scholarships, money he earned in school and help from his parents.
"Because of choices by our current leadership in the state Capitol and Lansing, that goal of attaining a college degree is literally out of sight for too many of our young people," he said.
Schauer said he would make college affordability a top priority as governor. He reiterated campaign proposals such as expanding need-based financial aid and creating a board to help college students refinance their loans at lower interest rates.
Snyder countered that he came into office facing a projected $1.5 billion budget shortfall. Despite the 15 percent reduction for public universities in 2011, he said, their state aid has increased the last three years.
"We've come back strong. We made a large increase this last year to help address that issue," he told reporters at his administration's launch of a military veterans initiative.
Snyder said there are a lot of factors in the cost of college but said he would not engage in the "blame game," instead emphasizing how students can save money by taking community college classes in high school.
Snyder's campaign and the state Republican Party on Wednesday highlighted comments that Schauer's running mate, Lisa Brown, made on a radio show a day earlier.
She was asked if she was worried about the GOP's attempt to link Schauer to Granholm, who was governor when he was a state lawmaker.
"I think the Granholm years, you know, weren't as bad as we think. I think that they could have been better. . But you know we're talking about 2014, and we're talking about what has happened to Michigan in the last 3 ½ years under Gov. Snyder," Brown said.
Snyder campaign spokeswoman Emily Benavides said, "Mark Schauer and Lisa Brown don't think that more than 300,000 jobs lost and unemployment above 14 percent is 'as bad as we think.'" Under Snyder, she said, the state has gained nearly 300,000 private-sector jobs and unemployment is at 7.4 percent.
A message seeking comment was left with the Schauer campaign.
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