Senator and Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio is pushing for an overhaul of the US higher education system, arguing that colleges are operating as "cartels" and are not meeting student needs.
"We do not need timid tweaks to the old system. We need a holistic overhaul," Rubio said in a policy speech in Chicago. "We need to change how we provide degrees, how those degrees are accessed, how much that access costs, how those costs are paid, and even how those payments are determined."
The speech was given not only as an effort by Rubio to describe his campaign platform, as one of 14 Republicans hoping to be the representative of the Republican party in the 2016 presidential election, but also as an opportunity to clarify the central theme of his candidacy: shaping America's future through globalization, automation, and rapid technological change, writes James Oliphant for Reuters.
Rubio's remarks were "very much an effort to win the support of middle class, moderate Americans who play a key role in general elections," said Jesse Rhodes, a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Rubio believes that middle-class America has been harmed as a result of the economic downturn. In order to remedy that, he would like to see the creation of a child tax credit he considers to be pro-family in addition to subsidies that would benefit minimum-wage workers. Lastly, he would like to see a new approach to higher education that focuses more strongly on teaching high-level skills that would allow students to compete in the global business environment upon graduation.
He went on to say that the current system is causing too many students to graduate with massive amounts of debt and degrees that do not lead to well-paying jobs. Rubio believes that those who need to make the most of the higher education system in the country, including single parents and working adults, are left with too few options due to their complicated schedules and limited budgets.
Instead, Rubio would like to see the creation of a higher education system that more easily allows low-cost institutions, possibly online, to compete with schools that are already established.
"There's no question that accreditation needs to be reformed," said Barmak Nassirian, policy director for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. "But the simplistic charge that it's just a cartel, that it's only interested in keeping insiders in and the outsiders out, that's obviously too extreme."
Rubio called for students to be allowed to repay their student loans based on their incomes after graduation. He added that investors should be allowed to pay a student's tuition in return for a portion of the individual's income upon graduation.
In order to give students a complete picture of the results of their degree completion, he would like to see colleges be required to tell prospective students what they can expect to receive as a salary after graduation.