At the University of North Carolina, Obama recounted how the student debt he and first lady Michelle Obama owed after getting married exceeded their first mortgage.
Without naming Romney, Obama sought to distinguish his background from that of the multimillionaire businessman and former Massachusetts governor.
"This is something Michelle and I know about firsthand," Obama said of student debt, pausing amid cheers and laughter from the energetic crowd. "I just want everybody here to understand. ... I didn't just read about this. I didn't just get some talking points about this. I didn't get some policy briefing on this. Michelle and I -- we have been in your shoes. Like I said, we didn't come from wealthy families."
Obama repeated that theme at the University of Colorado later Tuesday, telling a crowd there, "Michelle and I graduated with a mountain of debt."
He also taped an appearance on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," a show popular with college-aged viewers, at UNC, in which he spoke more on the issue with the host.
Obama ends the tour on Wednesday at the University of Iowa.
All three universities are in states that Obama narrowly won in the 2008 election, which are considered battleground states again in 2012.
Five years ago, rates for the popular student loan program were lowered to 3.4% from 6.8%. Without an extension, the lowered rates are set to expire on July 1 and return to 6.8%.
In a rare show of agreement with Obama, Romney said Monday he supports extending the lowered loan rates for low- and middle-income undergraduates.
"With the number of college graduates who can't find work or who can only find work well beneath their skill level, I fully support the effort to extend the low interest rate on student loans," Romney said before a campaign event in Astor, Pennsylvania.
Last year, when asked about the rising cost of higher education, Romney suggested that market forces would lead some colleges to lower the price of receiving an education to compete in attracting cost-conscious students.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, indicated Tuesday that an agreement would be worked out in view of the support for extending the lower loan rate by Obama and Romney.
Romney needs to overcome a big Obama advantage among young voters. In 2008, voters ages 18 to 29 supported Obama over Republican nominee Sen. John McCain by 66% to 32%, according to CNN exit polling.
Obama has maintained his lead among the group, according to the latest CNN/ORC International Poll, with 64% support to Romney's 32%.
Rep. Aaron Schock of Illinois, a Romney surrogate who is the youngest member of Congress, argued Tuesday that Obama's rhetoric has not translated into a better culture for young voters.
"The reality is there's not been opportunity for young people as they've graduated from college," Schock said on a conference call with reporters organized by the Romney campaign. "Half of the young people who graduated last year are still unemployed or underemployed. Nearly the same percent still live with their parents."