Two prominent Republican Senators on Monday continued to push for an overhaul of U.S. accreditation of colleges, seeking to open up federal student aid to non-traditional forms of higher education as a way to lower costs and broaden access. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, in a speech at a National Journal event in Miami, called on Congress to establish a new independent accrediting board that would accredit free online courses -- a proposal also floated by President Obama in his 2013 State of the Union address. “Action on this issue can and should be swift,” Rubio said, adding that “members of both parties are beginning to realize that for every day we delay bold accreditation reform, our education system leaves more Americans behind to languish in a dwindling market of low-skill jobs.”
Rubio praised a proposal by Senator Mike Lee of Utah that would allow states and companies to accredit courses. At a separate event in Washington, Lee said that such a plan would help lower the cost of higher education.
In his remarks in Miami, Rubio also laid out several other higher education proposals. He suggested that income-based repayment should be the default payment plan for federal student loans. He said that the various federal income-based repayment programs are underutilized and too confusing for borrowers.
In addition, he proposed a mechanism called “Student Investment Plans” as an alternative option to loan-financing for college tuition. Under the plan, students would have the option of applying for an investment plan from an “approved and certified private investment group” whose investors would pay the students’ tuition in return for a percentage of their income for a set period of time after graduation.
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