Hillary Clinton Has A Bold Plan To Tackle the Student Debt Crisis

August 10th 2015

Sarah Gray

On Monday, former Secretary of State and current 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton rolled out her college affordability plan — a plan that not only aims to make college tuition cheaper, but would also help those drowning in student loan debt. She made her announcement at an event in New Hampshire.

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Making college more affordable

While the plan does not go as far as those of her Democratic opponents—Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is calling for free tuition and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley is calling for debt-free college—Clinton's plan would spend robustly on higher education and includes a "no loan guarantee" for four-year schools, according to Fortune. The plan will have an estimated cost of $350 billion over 10 years, the New York Times reports.

The proposal includes giving states money to incentivize them to control tuition costs. The Times reports that "$175 billion in grants would go to states that guarantee that students would not have to take out loans to cover tuition at four-year public colleges and universities." If states accept the grant, they'll have to agree to end higher education budget cuts and increase their spending on public universities. While the plan hopes to slow the rise in tuition at public colleges, it does not, however, call for states to cap tuition rates.

Other prongs of the college affordability part of Clinton's plan include allowing low-income students who receive Pell Grants to use the money for living expenses and expanding the AmeriCorps program, a national service program that awards participants with a scholarship. The Washington Post reports that the plan also calls for two years of tuition-free community college, much like President Obama's never-passed proposal.

Clinton plans to offset the cost of the entire plan by "capping the value of itemized deductions that wealthy families can take on their tax returns."

Student loans

The plan also includes a proposal to allow students to refinance their student loans at a lower interest rate, a proposal that has been championed by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. In 2014, around 40 million Americans were shouldering student loan debt, with an average balance of $29,000. The New York Times reports that 8 million have defaulted on their loans.

Why this is important

Clinton's announcement comes several days after the first 2016 Republican debates failed to touch on college affordability. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was the only one to bring up student loans in passing.

Though the entire plan would need approval from Congress, it is still a promising proposal that may appeal to younger voters. College affordability is an important issue for young voters, their families, and those who have student debt. Collectively, those around the nation owe $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, according to the New York Times. (The Washington Post has that number even higher at $1.3 trillion.) Meanwhile, as states have cut back funding to public universities, college tuition has risen. "Tuition and fees for in-state residents at public colleges nationwide have increased by more than 40 percent since 2004 after adjusting for inflation," the Times reports.

ATTN: has previously reported on the skyrocketing cost of college—including the hidden costs of college, the rising cost of textbooks, and the major players profiting from student loans.

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