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Marco Rubio on Student Loans: Innovative or Ineffective?

04/09/2015 04:37 pm ET | Updated Jun 09, 2015

At Credible we are writing about how the 2016 presidential candidates would affect student loans and the financing of education for students and borrowers. 

Marco Rubio, the junior Republican Senator from Florida, will formally launch his presidential campaign on Monday. Facing a crowded field of competitors, he hopes to carve out a space for himself as the fresh-faced Republican who challenges the party's establishment and connects with younger voters. College affordability and student loan repayment could be a pillar of his campaign.

No stranger to the realities of financing undergraduate and graduate schooling, Rubio made it to the House of Representatives and then to the Senate long before he made his final student loan payment in 2012. With a BA from the University of Florida and a law degree from the University of Miami, he incurred about $100,000 in debt. "I'm keenly aware of it," he told a CNBC correspondent in 2011. "At one point in my life, it was the single-highest expenditure in our personal budget."

In following with this narrative, which he expands upon here during a speech at Miami-Dade College, Rubio introduced various legislation relating to college affordability, university transparency, and student loan repayments. In 2013, he and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) co-sponsored the Right to Know Before You Go Act, which would have changed the way colleges reported key statistics like graduation rates, average loan debts, and earning potential for graduates. Although that bill died in Congress, Rubio and Warner teamed up again in 2014 to introduce the Dynamic Student Loan Repayment Act. This bipartisan bill moved to shift payment plans from a fixed amount model to an approach based on percentages of income, protecting unemployed and low-earning graduates from defaulting on their loans during tough times. The bill was eventually folded into The Repay Act, a piece of legislation introduced by Senator Angus King (I-ME) and Richard Burr (R-NC) that allowed for both an income-based federal loan repayment program as well as a fixed repayment plan.

Rubio also co-sponsored the 2014 Investing in Student Success Act, a measure aimed at creating a legal framework for innovative private financing options for college education, including repayment plans based on percentage of income between students and private investment firms. “Allowing private investment groups to invest directly in an individual student is an alternative to student loans that helps make higher education more affordable and more accessible,” Rubio said in a press release.

While none of these bills have made it through Congress, Rubio has committed to tackling college affordability in earnest during his time in the Senate, likely with an eye toward appealing to younger voters come campaign season. Expect him to tout these efforts throughout the Republican primary and beyond. Should he make a deep run, expect more conversations around college affordability and student loan repayment plans. A Rubio presidency could feature new models for education financing and simplified income-based repayments, both to the federal government and to private investment groups.

To learn more about what private sector options are available to help graduates with student debt save, visit Credible.