Former Gov. of Maryland Martin O’Malley laid out his plan to reduce college debt at Saint Anselm’s College Wednesday morning in Manchester.
If elected president the Democratic candidate said he would set a national goal of making a debt-free college education attainable at public schools across the country in five years.
"I have found in my executive experience that when you set a goal, when you set a deadline, good and smart people will come together to figure out a multitude of ways to move toward that goal. And we need to set the goal of the national of making debt-free college a universal option for any family that chooses it," he told the dozen of current and former students who sat on the panel.
In order to do that O'Malley said as president he would pressure the federal government to shave down interest rates on loans, challenge states to freeze tuition and reduce the cost of state tuition to 10 percent of state median income, instead of the current 20 percent in some states. He also said that income based payment plans should be an automatic option, and that the federal government must work to restore Pell Grants that were cut in recent years.
O’Malley says the $1.3 trillion of debt students are graduating with is hurting the country’s economy.
“We are the only nation on the planet that saddles our kids with the amount of loan that we saddle our kids with now for doing the right thing and going to college.”
One of the graduates on the panel, 23-year-old Bianca Acebrona Peco, graduated from Franklin Pierce University with over a $100,000 worth of student loans.
"I am suppose to play a great role in the economy and buy a house and a car but I am stuck," she said, adding that most of her paycheck goes towards paying off her loans.
O’Malley has a personal stake in the issues: He and his wife had to take out multiple loans to pay for their two daughters college tuition, $339,200 to be exact.
He also aims to set a national goal of increasing college completion rates by 25 percent within the next ten years and tripling work study programs that offer students a way to make money while attending classes.