Rubio calls for education reforms to focus on closing ‘skills gap’

“The good news is it’s not partisan, the good news is it’s something that there’s broad support for," he said. "The bad news is because it’s not partisan. Because it’s not controversial, it’s not getting nearly enough attention as it needs to be getting."

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“It makes all the sense in the world, it just requires a lot of work and prioritization. In a town that’s constantly focused on the next crisis — if I told a cable news network that I want to go on the air to talk about this, their producers don’t get that excited. You can’t raise a lot of money off this issue. You’re not going to get a lot of attention by talking about this issue, and yet I can only think of a handful of other issues that we face that are as important as this one, and it’s one we need to be focused on.”

Rubio said the U.S. educational system needed to put more emphasis on helping students attain two-year educational degrees. The typical student was no longer just a recent high school graduate, he said, but often an older worker looking to get a new degree or job retraining.

“We have to have an education system that responds to that as well: Not just to the changing skill set of the 21st century but the changing student of the 21st century,” he said.

The senator, echoing proposals he’d lined out in a closely watched speech in early December, said that federally run student loan programs should open themselves up to nontraditional education systems like online courses. He said that business leaders should let local colleges know what skill sets they need, and he called for more school choice, a proposal popular with Republicans.

He also said that federal student loan programs should let prospective students know how much in total they would likely owe after graduating as well as the approximate salary range of their chosen fields.

“Education would become a lot more competitive and, quite frankly, a lot fairer to students who are taking on a debt load — that they don’t fully appreciate what it’s impact is going to be,” he said.

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