Many companies featured on Money advertise with us. Opinions are our own, but compensation and
in-depth research may determine where and how companies appear. Learn more about how we make money.

Photo illustration of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton dressed as graduates in front of a school building
Photo illustration by Sarina Finkelstein for Money; Getty Images (4); AP (1)

Survey after survey has shown that paying for college is one of the biggest worries facing families today. But you wouldn't have known it from the recently concluded presidential debates. In more than four hours of back and forth across three nights, the candidates mentioned the word "college" all of 11 times, and often just in passing.

So where do they stand on this important national issue?

Here is what we know so far.

Hillary Clinton

Democratic candidate Clinton has had the most to say about her plans for making college affordable, both in the debates (nine mentions to her opponent Donald Trump's two), in speeches, and on her website.

From the third debate, for example, we have this:

(Opponent Trump's response: "...she can say all she wants about college tuition. And I'm a big proponent. We're going to do a lot of things for college tuition but the rest the public is going to be paying for it.")

On her website, Clinton outlines similar proposals, such as these four, which we're paraphrasing here:

  • Free tuition at four-year public colleges and universities for in-state students whose families earn $85,000 or less a year. By 2021, the income limit would rise to $125,000.
  • Free tuition at all community colleges.
  • Lower interest rates on federal student loans.
  • Debt relief for current borrowers, including the option to refinance their loans at current federal rates.

Donald Trump

Republican candidate Donald Trump has had less to say about college in the debates, and the education policy area of his website is primarily devoted to K-12 issues, such as school choice. However, it does offer these two bullet points in a section titled "Donald J. Trump's Vision":


In an October 13 speech in the college town of Columbus, Ohio, he addressed the issue of student debt more specifically, proposing an income-based repayment plan pegged to 12.5% of a borrower's income, with the remainder of the loan forgiven after 15 years. That contrasts with current plans, with require payments based on 10% of income, with forgiveness generally coming after 20 years. Clinton's proposals support the current percentage and timetable but also add some new features, such as up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness for "social entrepreneurs and those starting new enterprises in distressed communities."