GOP Candidate Sen. Marco Rubio continued his theme during the GOP debate Tuesday that the United States is in global competition yet is unprepared to engage in it, in part because the nation’s higher education system is outdated.
Rubio said the U.S. is failing to compete globally because the country has the highest business tax rate in the industrialized world, regulations that continue to grow each week, a “crazy health care law” that discourages companies from hiring people, a failure to fully utilize our energy resources, and an outdated higher education system.
The senator from Florida said the U.S.’s higher education is outdated because it is too expensive, too hard to access, and fails to teach 21st century skills.
On his campaign website, Rubio says, if elected president, he will simplify higher education tax incentives, reduce the complexity of the federal financial aid form, and make college information, such as graduation rates and post-graduate earnings, available online. Rubio would also rehab the student loan repayment system and reform the accreditation system to include nontraditional education.
Recently Rubio has become an advocate for vocational education. “I want to be the vocational education president,” he said Monday before the debate while campaigning in Wisconsin.
“A welder makes a lot more than a philosopher,” he quipped, and then added, “I want to be the vocational education president, not someone that celebrates these jobs in hopes the private sector creates them, but someone that actually makes it easier for people to go into those fields.”
However, while assisting students who wish to pursue the trades is an appealing goal, some education experts raise concerns about Rubio’s lack of support for student data privacy and his sponsorship of legislation that would create a federal database on students for at least 15 years after they enter the workforce. With the added feature of his stance on immigration, these education experts say Rubio’s approach suggests a workforce development campaign, and that government intervention in workforce development is not a free enterprise solution to creating jobs.