Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton gives a campaign speech in front of the shuttered Trump Plaza hotel on the Atlantic City boardwalk in Atlantic City, N.J. on July 6, 2016. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
WASHINGTON, July 6 (UPI) -- Hillary Clinton announced plans Wednesday to offer free in-state tuition at public colleges and universities to students whose families earn up to $85,000 a year.
That figure will rise to $125,000 by 2021, and is expected to make college free for more than 80 percent of American families.
Under the scheme, families earning up to $85,000 a year would immediately be able to attend a four-year public college or university tuition-free.
The income threshold would then increase by $10,000 a year each year over four years so that, by 2021, all students with a family income of $125,000 or less would have the opportunity to receive a college education tuition-free.
Some students would be required to contribute earnings from a 10-hour-per-week job and parents would "do their part by making an affordable and realistic family contribution."
Under the plan, what she calls the New College Compact, Clinton said she also would take executive action upon being elected president to institute a three-month moratorium on payments for all federal student-loan borrowers. During that time, the Department of Education would be instructed to assist borrowers with enrolling in income-based repayment plans and loan rehabilitation programs.
Clinton is also pledging to restore year-round Pell grant funding in a bid to aid students taking summer courses.
It's unclear how much the New College Compact would cost the federal government, though Clintons campaign website said it would be paid for by "limiting certain tax expenditures for high-income taxpayers."
Clinton's proposal was immediately met with praise by Democratic presidential rival Bernie Sanders.
"This proposal, when implemented, will revolutionize the funding of higher education in America, improve the economic future of our country and make life immediately better for tens of millions of people stuck with high levels of student debt," he said.
"I want to take this opportunity to applaud Secretary Clinton for the very bold initiative she has just brought forth today for the financing of higher education."
During the primary campaigns, the Vermont senator had made free college tuition for all a centerpiece of his bid to be president.
While Clinton's plan stops short of Sanders' vision, it offers huge financial relief to millions of families.
"American families are drowning in debt caused by ever-rising college costs," Clinton said in a statement. "It is imperative that the next president put forward a bold plan to make debt-free college available to all.
"My New College Compact will do just that -- by making sure that working families can send a child or loved one to college tuition-free and by giving student debt-holders immediate relief.
"While Donald Trump offers little more than broken promises to get rich quick, I remain committed to ensuring that a college degree is attainable for anyone in this country with the desire and determination to earn one."
GOP rival Trump has been critical of plans for free tuition, and said that he believes his economic policies will increase the number of good jobs available and make it easier for students to pay off debts.
Clinton's announcement about college tuition fees comes just a day after she was reprimanded by FBI chief James Comey over her use of a private Internet server.
Clinton is also trying to rally support from Sanders' supporters ahead of the Democratic National Convention July 25-28 in Philadelphia.