Marco Rubio outlined his ideas for economic growth in a speech in Chicago Tuesday. The highlight of his remarks was a denunciation of the U.S. higher education system, which he characterized as more interested in making money than in educating students. He painted a picture of a system that requires students to jump through a series of expensive hoops in order to earn the diploma that is a ticket to well-paid jobs.
“We still tell our students that to get a degree, you have to spend four years on a campus, tens of thousands of dollars on tuition, and books, and room, and board and hundreds of hours in a classroom, often learning subjects that aren’t relevant to the modern economy.”
His rivals, he said, including Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, whom he mentioned by name, have offered little in the way of real change.
“We do not need timid tweaks to the old system,” he said. “We need a holistic overhaul. We need to change how we provide degrees, how those degrees are accessed, how much the access costs, how those costs are paid and how those costs are determined.”
Rubio said he would encourage practices such as vocational training and internships, which have fallen out of favor in a system where a four-year college degree is seen as a virtual requirement.
Rubio proposed several other ideas to shake up what he described as a “cartel” in higher education:
- He said that he would introduce much-needed competition to the education market by overturning the existing system of accreditation, which determines what institutions can grant degrees. “Our higher education system today is controlled by what amounts to a cartel of existing colleges and universities, which use their power over the accreditation process to block innovative, low-cost competitors from entering the marketplace,” he said. “Within my first 100 days we will bust this cartel.” By setting up an independent accreditation system, he said, he would introduce choice and competition and “prompt a revolution driven by the needs of students.”
- Rubio also said he would overhaul the student loan system. Among other things, he said he would require schools to inform students what they were likely to earn if they graduate with a specific degree before they commit to a package of student loans. He said that he would mandate a system that limits student loan payments to a size that will not cause financial hardship.
- His most unusual proposal was to allow students to sell the rights to a percentage of their future income for a fixed number of years in exchange for financial support while they earned their degree.
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