Washington (CNN)Sen. Marco Rubio says that Americans need to train for a new economy with new skills and that one of the first steps on that path requires busting the university "cartel" that trains students for outdated jobs.
Rubio: College 'cartels' need busting in new economy
"Our higher education system is controlled by what amounts to 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," Rubio said. He made his conservative populist pitch to technology leaders in Chicago on Tuesday morning, shortly before he heads off to Iowa for a three-day campaign swing.
The Florida Republican has crafted an image as a younger alternative to Hillary Clinton -- which he continued Tuesday with jabs at "Clinton's time machine to yesterday" -- but also implicitly contrasts himself with another frontrunner, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Rubio promised that he would change student-lending rules to allow private investors to pay for individual students to attend college and overhaul how colleges are accredited.
The concept of having individual donors fund students is being pushed by former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. Daniels was appointed Purdue University president in 2012 by his appointees to the college's board of trustees, following an eight-year run in office.
Since then he has lobbied for sweeping conservative changes in higher education.
Daniels told Congress in March that students would have to repay the private loan through a portion of their income, but said that federal legislation would be needed.
Rubio co-sponsored the measure earlier this year which would establish the framework for the private donor concept and referenced it again Tuesday during his 20-minute speech.
Candidates from both parties have been highlighting student debt (and college costs) as a major problem, but have very different ideas for tackling the problem.
Rubio has had his own struggles with student debt, detailed at length in a New York Times investigation of his finances. Rubio started his political career, after graduating law school, with $150,000 in student loan debt, though he's since wiped that out.