Tallahassee Democrat - Failed Government Policies Threaten College Dreams

Op-Ed

Date: Feb. 6, 2012

By Senator Marco Rubio

Today, Vice President Joe Biden will visit Tallahassee to discuss making college more affordable for our nation's youth. Making a college education a reality for more Americans is a worthy goal that I share, but President Obama's failed economic policies are making this goal harder to achieve.

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If the 21st century is going to be another American Century, making a quality college education more accessible is an essential component to greater prosperity. I know how true this is from my own experience.

Throughout my own life, I was blessed by a few key factors. First, I have lived under an American free enterprise system where good ideas, talent and hard work help people move up the economic ladder. Second, I had parents who sacrificed a lot to give me opportunities they never had. And third, I was able to afford college because of student loan and grant programs made possible by a limited government doing things it should be doing.

After high school, I attended Tarkio College in Missouri to play football. I had never lived away from home, and my parents could not afford to help me financially. What made it possible was the financial assistance I received. Instead of a traditional athletic scholarship, the school put together a financial aid package for me that made it possible to pursue my two dreams: going to college and playing football. After one season (sadly a losing one, as we were 4-5-1), I decided to move back to Florida and dedicate myself more to my studies, first at community college, then the University of Florida and finally the University of Miami's law school. Once again, I was relying on student loans, grants and hard work.

These experiences taught me all too well about the challenges students face in making ends meet in college, and later on as graduates trying to pay off their student loans. I was once in their shoes as a student. And I still find myself in the shoes of many, owing Sallie Mae more than $100,000 in law school loans, for which I pay about $700 each month. It's an experience I hope my kids don't have to go through, which is why we've set up pre-paid college tuition programs for all four.

My experiences are like those of many of the constituents I represent, and millions more across America. They've taught me that making college more affordable starts with having a disciplined government that doesn't waste money on endeavors it has no business in, so it can prioritize helping young people move up the economic ladder. My experiences also taught me that there is simply no better way to help Americans pay off their student loans than having a strong job market awaiting them upon graduation, and sustaining it throughout their careers by having government remove tax and regulatory obstacles that prevent entrepreneurs from opening new businesses or expanding existing ones.

Unfortunately, despite the president's best intentions, he continues to push for tax increases on the very employers that we are counting on to hire our nation's best and brightest students. He refuses to lead a government that spends no more than it takes in. He refuses to do anything to remove the long-term cloud of uncertainty stemming from our national debt. He refuses to fix our complicated tax code, and he refuses to rein in the Washington bureaucrats making our regulatory system a nightmare for job creators.


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