Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton criticized America's colleges and universities at Tuesday's Democratic presidential debate, saying they charge "outrageously high" costs and saddle students with "troublesome, cumbersome" student debt.
With some 40 million Americans collectively owing nearly $1.3 trillion on their student loans, student debt and the spiraling costs of higher education have emerged as top issues on the presidential campaign trail. Americans only owe more on their home mortgages than they do on their student loans.
Top bankers, federal regulators and other federal policymakers worry that with roughly 1 in 4 student loan borrowers in distress, and monthly payments eating up ever larger portions of borrowers' paychecks, student debt risks slowing economic growth for years to come as strapped borrowers cut back on spending.
Clinton sought to sell voters on her plan to aid borrowers and stop the relentless rise in tuition. Her plan, which she introduced in August, would expand existing government programs that allow borrowers to make payments based on their earnings while also providing future students the option to attend some colleges without having to take out loans for tuition, among other things.
Clinton's plan would "zero in on what the problems are," she said at the debate.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), one of her rivals for the Democratic nomination, has called for a more expansive tuition-free plan for students who attend public colleges. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, another contender, has called for an expansion of existing government programs that cap borrowers' monthly payments to no more than 10 percent of their income.
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