Conway, New Hampshire (CNN) - Mitt Romney stuck to his austerity message at a town hall Thursday, even as he was closely questioned by several voters concerned about a drawdown in government benefits.
In Conway, the GOP candidate repeated his stance on cutting government spending and influence, after a man told Romney about benefits he received as a retiree.
The man told Romney he and his wife had worked extra jobs to send two daughters through college, but now he receives only two-thirds of his Social Security benefits because he is married and draws a pension as a former firefighter.
Romney said the arrangement sounded fair, and pointed out the man had known about the benefits arrangement when he began paying into the pension program.
"I know there are some people who run for president that will say, 'Hey, I'm going to give you more. I'll find a way to give you some more. I'll change the rules and give you more money,'" Romney said. "I'm not that guy. If there's a competition for who will give you the most free stuff, go vote for that guy."
The man said he had been paying into Social Security for 40 years.
"I'm not asking for anything free, I'm asking for what I paid into," he said.
Romney did acknowledge to the man that he, himself, was wealthy, and agreed that citizens making a certain amount should not receive benefits from the entitlement program.
In addition, under tough questioning by a college student, Romney said colleges would eventually be forced to lower tuition rates to compete for applicants.
Two voters at the town hall asked Romney about the rising cost of higher education. The GOP candidate agreed tuition rates were troublesome but seemed to imply the problem would work itself out in the free market system.
"Of course there will always be the Dartmouths and Dukes and so forth that will charge a very high price and will get a number of terrific students," he said, referring to two major U.S. schools. But some state schools will decide "we're going to compete by giving people an education at a more reasonable price," Romney said.
Kallie Durkit, a junior at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, protested that potential employers were still seeking graduates from top-dollar schools.
Romney did not directly address her question, but pointed to his successful experience as a graduate of Brigham Young University - a school he called "not world-renowned." He told Durkit he believed in competition and said colleges were "going to have to find ways to provide education at prices people can afford."
"What I can promise you is this," he said. "When you get out of college if I'm president, you'll have a job. If President Obama's reelected, you will not be able to get a job."
After the event Durkit said she had hoped for more specifics. She said her experience looking for internships as a student at a state college had been frustrating.
"A person from a state college knows that they're up against these big-name private institutions, and we know that we're going to get looked over instead of someone who's gone to a Harvard, a Yale. We know that we're not nearly as competitive," she said. "So when he talks about hard work - I could be putting in just as hard work but the name still means something in corporate America."
Durkit said she would likely support President Obama in part because of the help she said he had provided for young people. In particular, she pointed to Obama's health care program, which allows young adults to remain on their parents' insurance until age 26.