At a recent campaign event, hopeful Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley let it slip that he and his family have racked up an unfathomable $339,000 in student loan debt after putting his two daughters through college.
The statement, made on Wednesday, July 8, is the type of anecdote that symbolizes the crushing weight that student debt has placed upon the average American. It also served as a piece of emotional rhetoric that led into O’Malley’s proposed five-year plan which would allow all Americans to graduate from college completely free of debt, as long as they attend a public college.
According to the Daily Caller, O’Malley’s college financing plan takes a multi-pronged approach, using tuition freezes, increases in federal grants, the creation of work-study opportunities and fair repayment plans to help more people afford the cost of seeking higher education.
When Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush criticized O’Malley’s plan as “just (wiping) the $1.2 trillion of debt without reform of our higher education system, more free stuff,” the former two-term governor of Maryland fired back on Twitter.
“@JebBush no, debt-free college is not about ‘free stuff.’ It’s about providing opportunities for every American,” he tweeted.
If he were to be elected into the Oval Office next year, O’Malley’s plans to make college more affordable would undoubtedly help millions of young adults across the country. With 40 million Americans now carrying some amount of student debt, this debt now surpasses credit card debt as the top form of debt in the nation.
During the 2014-2015 school year, tuition at private colleges averaged around $31,231, with state colleges’ tuition averaging $9,139. Thanks to this, the average amount of student debt per person has risen to $29,000, up from $23,000 in 2008.
However, O’Malley still has a long way to go on the campaign trail before he can have a real shot at clinching the Democratic presidential nomination. According to MSNBC, just 2% of Democrats say O’Malley is their first choice for a candidate. Compared to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the current Democratic front-runners, O’Malley is virtually unknown on a national scale. However, if he can maintain a slow-burn pace throughout the next few months, this may be able to change by the time polls open for the primaries.