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Marco Rubio Pushes Higher Education Reform on Bill Bennett's Radio Show

February 11, 2014 - 6:00pm

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., continued his calls for higher education reform on Wednesday as he appeared on former U.S. Education Secretary Bill Bennetts national radio talk-show.

Rubio has been making the rounds with the national media after unveiling his proposals for higher education reform at a speech at Miami-Dade College on Monday.

You need more skill than ever before, Rubio told Bennett about the current job market. And our system of delivering skills, our education system, is not 21st century. Its built on 20th century concepts that no longer are truly meeting the needs of our students. So, the single mom with two kids who has to work full-time and raise her family, she has no way to go back to school because there are no programs designed for someone like her, that are flexible enough. The individual who has lost their job, because it was automated or outsourced, needs to be retrained, cant access the system. And then we have a bunch of young people graduating high school and going into college and getting degrees that dont lead to jobs. And thats a big problem because universities are feeding that and theyre giving students no information about their future prospects.

So one of the proposals I have is that students have a right to know before they go, Rubio added. Before you take out a student loan, the school youre at should tell you, This is how much graduates from our school, with your degree, make. So you can make an informed decision about whether its worth taking out, you know, a Greek philosophy degree for a $20,000 loan.

This whole venture, tell me about it, Bennett said. Because people entering into the debate about higher education are often surprised by what they find. If you walk into the temple, the keepers of the temple do not particularly like it. They dont take criticism well is what Ive found.

Well theyre very insulated, clearly, because tenure insulates them, Rubio responded. They believe theyre above politics in many ways, but ultimately why do we invest in public education in this country? Because it is preparing a workforce. It is human infrastructure preparation that allows us to grow and expand our economy. The 21st century economy looks different than the 20th century economy. It demands a certain type of learning, a certain type of skill acquisition, and we need people to learn this stuff faster than ever before. We have an opportunity gap in America. And I said it in the speech, between haves and have-nots those that have higher education, or some advanced education, and those that do not have it. The Pew study yesterday found that the gap between college graduates and noncollege graduates on an income basis is as wide as its ever been. We can close that gap, but we have got to make higher education more affordable, more flexible, and more available.

Bennett has been a supporter of Rubio ever since the Florida Republican burst on the national scene in 2010 by driving then-Gov. Charlie Crist out of the Republican Party in that years U.S. Senate primary. Rubio easily defeated Crist, who continued his Senate bid with no party affiliation, and Democratic candidate then-U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., in the general election.

In his 2011 book, The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood, Bennett included a profile of Rubio as a man that boys could admire.

Earlier in the week, Rubio appeared on Fox News and CNBC to promote his higher education reforms.

Reach Kevin Derby at

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