President Obama on Tuesday told Virginia community college students that unless young people mobilize, special interests in Washington will balance the federal budget by slashing student aid and other education spending.

“I can’t afford to have all of you as bystanders,” Obama told a town-hall meeting at Northern Virginia Community College. “There are powerful interests in Washington … they are going to want to reduce the deficit on your backs.”

He told students that Republicans want to cut Pell Grant scholarships with their budget, but that his own budget plan would increase education spending while reducing deficits by $4 trillion over 12 years.

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