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Clinton campaign: Plan could allow 85,000 Wisconsin students to attend college tuition-free by 2021

Free tuition

A proposal from Hillary Clinton could allow as many as 85,000 students in Wisconsin to attend college tuition-free by 2021, according to her campaign.

Under Clinton’s plan, students from families making up to $125,000 per year would pay no tuition at in-state colleges and universities. In Wisconsin, that accounts for 89 percent of families.

Clinton’s New College Compact phases in the tuition-free provision, which would first apply to families making up to $85,000 a year. By 2021, the income cap would be lifted to $125,000 per year.

The proposal also calls for free tuition for community college students.

Clinton’s plan would preserve Pell Grant funding and restoring year-round access to the need-based financial aid program, and for a “fifteen-fold increase in federal funding for on-campus child care.”

For graduates still paying off student loan debt, Clinton’s plan would allow loans to be refinanced at a lower rate. According to her campaign, 515,000 borrowers in Wisconsin would be able to refinance their loans, saving an average of $2,000 over the life of the loan.

According to White House figures, 815,000 Wisconsinites have student loan debt and the average debt for someone with a bachelor’s degree is about $28,400. Total student debt carried by Wisconsin residents is a little more than $19 billion.

If elected, Clinton has pledged to take “immediate executive action” to implement a three-month moratorium on payments for all federal student loan borrowers.

The Democratic former secretary of state’s plan would also “simply, expand and develop options” for borrowers to enroll in programs for income-based repayment and debt forgiveness.

Also under the plan, entrepreneurs would be able to take out loans with no payment or interest for up to three years. Social entrepreneurs and people who launch businesses in distressed communities could be eligible for up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness, and teachers in shortage subjects or high-need districts would be eligible for “enhanced loan forgiveness.” Members of AmeriCorps could have their loans forgiven after completing two years of national service and one year of public service.

Students receiving relief under Clinton’s plan would be required to work 10 hours per week, while state colleges and universities would be charged with keeping costs down and improving graduation rates.

The release of the report comes along with the release of a “college calculator” produced by the campaign to determine how much incoming students or graduates with debt would be able to save under the plan.

The plan would be “fully paid for,” according to the campaign, by “limiting certain tax expenditures for high-income taxpayers.”

U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, on behalf of Donald Trump’s campaign, dismissed Clinton’s plan.

“How can someone who, along with her husband, has made millions off of higher education through paid speeches and sweetheart job deals understand the sacrifices Wisconsin’s working families make to pay for college? This is typical Hillary Clinton, say one thing but do another, and the American people are tired of it,” Grothman said.

The Republican nominee has been less outspoken than Clinton on the issue of college affordability.

He pledged, in his nomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in July, to work with student loan borrowers to “take the pressure off these young people just starting out their adult lives.” His campaign has not released specifics on the issue, but the candidate has said a plan is coming soon.

In a May 2016 interview with Inside Higher Ed, Trump campaign national co-chairman and policy director Sam Clovis said Trump’s response to debt-free and tuition-free proposals floated by Democrats would be “unequivocally no.”

Clovis also pushed back on proposals to make community college free, arguing “almost anyone can afford community college.”

Trump himself has criticized the federal government for profiting from student loans, and Clovis suggested the role should be transferred back to private banks.

Clovis also said the Trump campaign believes colleges should have more on the line, sharing the risk with banks and students. That would likely mean putting a greater focus on students’ chosen major and earning potential as a factor in granting loans.