CNBC’s Joe Kernen: “For Republicans to win back the hearts and minds of voters, we need to fix this, because opportunity is not equal. It depends on where you’re born and what kind of family you’re born into. And until we fix it, the other side is going to make headway by trying to guarantee outcome. So you’ve got some answers here. And I applaud you for it.”
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
CNBC’s “Squawk Box”
February 11, 2014
CNBC’s Joe Kernen: “Forgive me for engaging in some reductive reasoning. But, there are two ways really to run a society. And, you know, we argue about it all the time. You can either redistribute assets to effect an equal outcome or you can guarantee equal opportunity. I think you’ve seized on it here. For Republicans to win back the hearts and minds of voters, we need to fix this because opportunity is not equal. It depends on where you’re born and what kind of family you’re born into. And until we fix it, the other side is going to make headway by trying to guarantee outcome. So you’ve got some answers here. And I applaud you for it.”
Senator Marco Rubio: “Well first of all, you’ve hit it right on the nose. Mobility, that ability to rise above the circumstances of your birth, is something I experienced. Perhaps many of you have experienced, as well, most Americans have. The data now shows that we’re no longer, perhaps, the most mobile country in the world. And I just won’t accept that. Because that’s one of the things that I think makes us truly exceptional. So what is it that’s holding people back, increasingly in the 21st century and the post-industrial revolution? It’s the lack of access to higher education.
“The problem is we have a 20th century higher education model that says, ‘Everyone has to go and get a four-year degree, then you get a bachelor’s, then you get a graduate degree.’ And that’s still good, but that’s not the only way for everyone. There are a bunch of professions being created that require more than high school, but less than college. We have to provide access to those sorts of learning as well. And then you’ve got this explosion in technology that’s brought knowledge and learning to more people than ever before. But, we don’t reward it with a degree. We don’t pay for it with federal student aid. And that makes it inaccessible to many, many people and that’s why you have a trillion dollars in student loan debt out there today across this country.
“So I propose three things. One: More information for students. I filed a bill called Right to Know Before You Go with Senator Wyden. That means students will be told before they take out a loan, ‘This is how much you can expect to make when you graduate with this degree, from this institution.’ I also think we should open up lending to private investment groups that can invest directly in an individual student. And a student pledges to pay that back through a percentage of their income over a defined period of time. And finally, we need to open up the accreditation process and be able to allow people to get credit and ultimately degrees, based, not just on classroom work, but also on life experience, work experience, areas that you can show aptitude in through testing and online learning.”
Kernen: “What are we going to use all those liberal arts schools for those facilities? What are we going to use those for when people see what you can actually expect to make with those degrees and we shut them all down? What’s going to happen?”
Rubio: “You know, some people will still choose that route. For example, I teach a political science course at Florida International University and many of those students are taking that course because they want to be journalists or politicians or they want to go to law school.”
Kernen: “Don’t do that.”
Rubio: “I know, exactly. I tell them, ‘Go design software.’ But, anyways, my point is that it will still have utility, and many people will choose that. What I’m saying is that we have these rapidly growing areas of our economy that we have a growing skills gap. And we’ve got to fill that skills gap by allowing people to access the information. And not just young 18-year-old students, 35-year-old single mothers, too.”
Kernen: “Senator, sometimes I wonder why do some Republicans even go into government? Because they don’t like anything that government can do and they want small government. That can’t be your only role is trying to hold back the growth of government, and this is a place where you can play, I think. Something needs, something absolutely, and I don’t know if it is just higher education we got to start, I don’t know where we’ve got to start, but it is not just money or throwing money at it. There’s got to be a fundamental overhaul of all these things to guarantee opportunity so people can, with freedom — with economic freedom and personal freedom — they can choose their own path and succeed in this country. And that’s a really noble thing for a politician to try and do.”
Rubio: “Well it’s my personal experience. You mentioned the role of government, I went to college on Pell Grants and federal student loans. So, I think there is a role for government. It is not the solution to everything, but that doesn’t mean it can’t play a constructive role. I still believe, by and large, government should be limited and effective. But in that limited role, there are things government can do to incentive the free enterprise system and to allow people to access the skills they need to take advantage of the opportunities created by a free enterprise system.”