Hillary Clinton Tackles College Debt in New Campaign Ad

Hillary Rodham Clinton will call Monday for a $350-billion federal commitment to reducing higher education costs for millions of Americans, part of an overhaul she seeks that would also cut student loan interest rates and make it easier to repay college debt.


Hillary Clinton plans to commit $350 billion to make college more affordable and ease the burden of student debt, if elected president.

States that guarantee “no-loan” tuition at four-year public schools and free tuition at community colleges would be eligible to receive federal funds.

Clinton’s proposals are more targeted-and less expensive-than those put forward by her top opponent for the Democratic nomination, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who in May put forward the College For All Act, which would eliminate undergraduate tuition and fees at all public colleges and universities, with the federal government pitching in two-thirds of the funding and one-third coming from the states.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley unveiled a debt-free college plan in July, promising to lower tuition at state college and universities and tying loan repayment to income.

Sanders’s student debt plan calls for zero tuition at public colleges.

Under Clinton’s plan, families would still be expected to make a “realistic family contribution” and students would also fork over some of their earnings from working 10 hours per week.

Clinton organizers plan to promote the plan at registration events and other gatherings kicking-off the school year, according to a campaign aide, in an effort to galvanize college students. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Students from higher-income backgrounds could graduate from college without incurring debt if they agree to join AmeriCorps, a program that Clinton wants to expand from 75,000 members to 250,000.

College affordability has emerged as one of 2016’s most important policy areas, particularly in the early primary and caucus states, with candidates on both sides of the aisle being asked about their plans for making higher education more accessible. She would let borrowers refinance their student loans to save money and lower the interest rates on federal loans.

Clinton is also proposing consolidating four income-based repayment programs into one, reducing confusion for borrowers and capping payments at 10 percent of discretionary income and forgiving any unpaid debt after 20 years.

Clinton’s plan would likely face a steep climb in Congress: A $60 billion Obama administration initiative for free community college has gotten little traction.

Democrats have seized on proposals to make college more affordable in an effort to shore up support among young voters, especially those who supported Obama in his first White House campaign. Clinton’s proposal relies on states to administer the grant programs, which would require colleges and universities to meet specific targets for student affordability.

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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton listens to a home care worker during a roundtable discussion in Los Angeles. Calling for a “new college compact,” Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monda