Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton will announce a $350 billion proposal to make college more affordable for millions of Americans on Monday, while easing the debt burden on millions more who have yet to fully repay student loans.
More than half of the sum would go toward new grants to states and colleges to incentivize tuition plans that would eliminate student borrowing for four-year public universities, while eliminating tuition altogether for two-year community-college programs. Clinton's proposal relies on states to administer the grant programs, which would require colleges and universities to meet specific targets for student affordability.
The plan, which Clinton will announce Monday at events during a two-day swing across New Hampshire, follows President Barack Obama's call earlier this year to make two-year community-college programs free for most students, but that effort was greeted with a thud by Republicans in Congress.
Clinton's proposal would reduce the expected family contribution for education, while lowering the students self-help requirement to the wages earned based on 10 hours of work per week, the campaign said. Additionally, the plan would allow for federal Pell grants to be used to pay for living expenses.
The plan fulfills the wish list of progressives, who have been waiting for Clinton to announce such a plan for months. It shares similarities with the plan announced earlier this year by former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley.
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.
For those with current loans, Clinton's plan would cut student-loan interest rates for all federal loans, while mandating income-based repayment plans, which limit outlays to what the borrower can afford to pay. And Clinton would expand debt forgiveness for those who go into public service jobs.
Clinton will also announce plans to crack down on certain for-profit universities that have been accused of using controversial practices to recruit students, often veterans, while allegedly providing subpar value. She will also call for the expansion of AmeriCorps from 75,000 to 250,000 volunteers per year, with those enrolling benefiting from education benefits.
Clinton's campaign estimated the plan would cost roughly $350 billion over a decade, which she proposes to pay for by closing some tax loopholes used by the nation's wealthiest. The precise details of the revenue stream was left vague by the campaign, and any such proposal would likely face stiff opposition from congressional Republicans.