Marco Rubio unveils his plan to make college affordable

Rubio stands in stark contrast with Bernie Sanders

Marco Rubio has outlined his plan to make US college education more affordable on Wednesday — a proposal that stands in stark contrast to Bernie Sanders’ tuition-free solution. 

Speaking at a Town Hall event in Greenville, South Carolina, Mr Rubio pushed for what he called a “student investment plan,” which would allow investors to cover the cost of tuition for students in need of financial assistance. 

“In essence, they would believe in you so much, and in your success, that they would pay for your college,” Mr Rubio said at the CNN organised event. “If you become financially successful, they’re going to make their investment back with a profit.” 

He said if that did not happen, however, the private investors would lose money to a “bad investment.” 

Mr Rubio explained his plan when questioned by university student Maggie Grisell, who said she will face a $500,000 debt if she attends a South Carolina dental school in later this year. Her only in-state option, she said, costs $100,000 a year.

Financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz told The Independent that Mr Rubio’s plan was not a solution to the student debt, but simply another form of it. 

“Instead of paying back a fixed amount for a period of time one pays back a fixed percentage of income for a period of time,” said Mr Kantrowitz said. “Rhetoric about income share agreements [another name for student investment plans] solving the student debt problem are peddling a fiction, since income share agreements change the form of debt without eliminating it.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has rallied the youth vote with his platform to actually eliminate student debt with tuition-free college and lower interest rates on loans. 

Mr Sanders cites models from Germany on his website, which abandoned tuition fees in 2014, as well as other countries, such as Chile, Norway, and Sweden, which will soon follow suit. However, the Senator from Vermont has drawn criticism for this idea.

Andrew Kelly, director of the Centre on Higher Education Reform, called Mr Sanders’ plan to oust American college tuition “a great talking point, but… flawed policy”. 

Mr Kelly said in a New York Times column that “free college,” as proposed by Mr Sanders, was not actually free, “it simply shifts costs from students to taxpayers and caps tuition at zero.” 

College costs will still rise, and “public generosity,” he warned, may not “keep pace with rising college costs, increases in demand, or both.” 

Similarly, Mr Rubio’s plan, according to Mr Kantrowitz, would cause investors to “focus on students who are most likely to be profitable.”