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O’Malley unveils plan for debt-free college grads

Greg Nash

Former Md. Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) on Wednesday unveiled an ambitious five-year plan with the aim of helping students graduate from college debt-free.

O’Malley, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, made the issue personal, saying he and his wife took on more than $300,000 in debt to put their two daughters through college.

{mosads}“The student debt crisis is one I know from our own family,” O’Malley said. “My wife and I took out big loans to support our daughters. For us, this is what the American Dream is all about — working hard and making sacrifices so our kids can pursue bigger opportunities and do better than we did.”

In an email to supporters on Tuesday, one of O’Malley’s daughters, Grace O’Malley, who is now a public school teacher in Baltimore, sought to highlight the financial struggle her family faced when she went off to Georgetown University.

“My parents are both public servants who have worked hard their whole lives to put the people of Baltimore and Maryland first,” she wrote. “So when it came time for me to go to college, I had to make a tough choice: do I go to the college we can afford or do I take out loans to go to the college of my dreams? At the age of 18, I made the decision to follow my dreams. My family and I now face years of debt—and we know we’re not the only ones.”

O’Malley unveiled the plan in New Hampshire, the first-in-the-nation primary state where his campaign said students graduate with the highest level of student debt in the country.

O’Malley proposed freezing public tuition rates; tying public school tuition rates to median income by state; boosting federal incentives, such as Pell Grants, to aid students with non-tuition costs; expanding federal work-study programs and increasing accountability standards on for-profit colleges where student loan defaults are the worst.

For those who have already accumulated debt, O’Malley proposed allowing for refinancing at lower rates and tying payments to income.

“Right now, student loan debt is holding us back — student by student, family by family, and as a nation, we have to do better,” he said. “In Maryland, I fought to freeze tuition at public four-year institutions, invested in higher education and financial aid, and took steps to make sure our high school students were graduating with a degree that’s worth more. Now is the time we do this as a country.”

Student debt has been the focus of several presidential candidates early in the campaign cycle as they seek to appeal to young voters.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I), who has emerged as the biggest threat to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, has proposed free tuition at four-year public colleges and universities. Sanders has said the proposal could be funded by raising taxes on Wall Street.

On Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a Republican presidential contender, vowed that if elected president he’d bust the higher education “cartels.”

Tags Bernie Sanders Hillary Clinton Marco Rubio
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