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Marco Rubio calls for higher education reform in first policy speech of campaign

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks at 1871, an entrepreneurial hub for digital startups Tuesday, July 7, 2015, in Chicago.   Rubio outlined a plan to lower corporate tax rates, loosen Internet regulation and broaden college accreditation, in his first major domestic policy speech as a presidential candidate. (AP Photo/Christian K. Lee)

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks at 1871, an entrepreneurial hub for digital startups Tuesday, July 7, 2015, in Chicago. Rubio outlined a plan to lower corporate tax rates, loosen Internet regulation and broaden college accreditation, in his first major domestic policy speech as a presidential candidate. (AP Photo/Christian K. Lee) 

Presidential hopeful Marco Rubio’s first policy speech of his 2016 campaign focused on a topic near and dear to young voters — higher education.

Rubio pushed Tuesday for a total reinvention of the higher education system, including creating a new university accreditation process, giving more students access to information before they take out student loans, and more flexibility in how loans are repaid.

“The problems with higher education are many, but the ideas from Hillary Clinton and other outdated leaders are narrow and shortsighted,” he said, as quoted by Bloomberg Politics. “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 even how those payments are determined.”

He said right now the system is essentially run by a “cartel of existing colleges and universities, which use their power over the accreditation process to block innovative, low-cost competitors from entering the market” and that he would “bust this cartel” with a new process that was more welcoming to low-cost options.

“This would expose higher education to the market forces of choice and competition, which would prompt a revolution driven by the needs of students –- just as the needs of consumers drive the progress of every other industry in our economy,” he said at the event in Chicago.

Rubio’s words echoed those heard around the Hill earlier this year when the Higher Education Reform and Opportunity (HERO) Act was introduced by Rep. Ron DeSantis, a fellow Floridian. This bill would have allowed state accreditation systems to have more freedom. They could create systems and industry-based accreditation boards that could rate alternative institutions, programs, or even individual courses under the act.

Rubio also supported the “Student Right to Know Before You Go Act” in his speech. This act would require institutions to tell students how much they can expect to earn with a given degree before they take out the loans to pay for it, as well as other crucial information to help students better evaluate their decision to take on thousands in debt.

Rubio also took a page out of Purdue University President Mitch Daniels’ book and pitched an innovative idea for student loan repayment that included allowing students to join with investors who would pay their tuition in return for a part of their earnings post-graduation.


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