WASHINGTON (CBS DC/AP) — Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., calls President Barack Obama’s apology to an art history professor “pathetic.”

“Pathetic Obama apology to art history prof.,” Rubio posted on Twitter Wednesday. “We do need more degrees that lead to jobs.”

Last month, Obama said during an event in Waukesha, Wis., that Americans “can make a lot more, potentially, with a skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree.”

Ann Collins Johns, an art history professor at the University of Texas, emailed the president following his comment, urging him to “look at what we do well,” in a blog posted on Hyperallergenic.

Obama ended up writing an apology letter to Johns, which was also posted to the Hyperallergenic blog.

“Let me apologize for my off-the-cuff remarks. I was making a point about the jobs market, not the value of art history. As it so happens, art history was one of my favorite subjects in high school , and it has helped me take in a great deal of joy in my life that I might otherwise have missed,” the letter read. “So please pass on my apology for the glib remark to the entire department, and understand that I was trying to encourage young people who may not be predisposed to a four year college experience to be open to technical training that can lead them to an honorable career.”

Last week, the possible presidential contender called for overhauling the nation’s higher education system to close an “opportunity gap” between Americans with and without advanced degrees.

Rubio said the reforms should include state-accredited alternatives to four-year colleges, income-based terms for repaying college loans and new standards for accrediting free Internet courses.

“Those with the right advanced education are making more money than ever. But those who are not are falling farther and farther behind,” Rubio said at an education forum at Miami Dade College. “The result is an opportunity gap developing between haves and have-nots, those who have advanced education and those who do not. And if we do not reverse that trend, we will lose the upward mobility that made America exceptional.”

Rubio’s proposal comes as Republicans seek an alternative to Obama’s agenda to bolster the middle class, some of which touches on the same higher education issues.

The Republican lawmaker also called for simplifying the federal aid process and making income-based loan repayment mandatory.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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