CLAREMONT, N.H. (AP) — Selling her plan to lower college costs and student debt, Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday the GOP candidates for president didn't mention "one word" about making college affordable during last week's Republican debate.
"I don't know who they're talking to out on the campaign trail," the Democratic front-runner told a crowd at a New Hampshire community college. "I think this is a major challenge, and I want us to address it. Not one word from the other side."
Clinton this week unveiled a $350 billion plan to address higher education costs, in part by encouraging more state and federal spending, making it easier for students to refinance loans and capping loan payments based on their incomes. Later Tuesday, she addressed New Hampshire's substance abuse epidemic and met with several Black Lives Matter protesters.
To help make the case for her plan, she singled out Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker during Tuesday's town hall, saying the Republican presidential candidate delighted in cutting money for higher education in his state.
Walker this year proposed cutting the University of Wisconsin's budget by $300 million, while separating it from state laws and oversight under a new independent governance structure university officials have long sought. The Republican-controlled state Legislature rejected the greater independence but moved ahead with a $250 million budget cut that Walker signed into law last month.
Clinton also said Walker has not backed Democratic proposals to make student loan payments income-tax deductible. "I don't know why he wants to raise taxes on students — that's the result," Clinton said.
Walker has pointed to Wisconsin's university tuition as an example of how he's helped make college more affordable.
"Hillary Clinton is offering the same bait and switch as President (Barack) Obama, making promises to students while delivering higher tuition costs and tax increases," Walker said in a statement. "As governor, I froze college tuition at Wisconsin colleges four years in a row. Americans need a leader who delivers results not empty promises."
Walker isn't the only GOP candidate Clinton is targeting this week, as she uses individual candidate's policies to paint the GOP field with a broad brush. On Monday, she criticized Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for comments he made during Thursday's debate about abortion.
Although college costs were not discussed on the debate stage, several Republican candidates — including Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — have addressed the issue.
Rubio has called for a stronger focus on skills gained than classroom time and Christie has said schools should itemize tuition bills so students can opt out of paying for amenities or services they don't use.
Clinton also met privately with a group of Black Lives Matter protesters who were unable to make it inside for her second event. One of the protesters, Daunasia Yancey, said the group had hoped she would address her role in policies they argue hurt black Americans as first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state. Clinton, she said, stuck to discussing policies she would change if elected president.
"What we were looking for was a conversation around her and her family's part in perpetuating white supremacist violence in this country and abroad, and her reflection in her part in that," Yancey said. "That is not what we heard in response."
Black Lives Matter protesters have also confronted Clinton's Democratic opponents Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders at their events, demanding more discussions about violence against blacks and systemic racism. Yancey wouldn't say whether Tuesday's conversation made her more or less likely to support Clinton.
Clinton also used questions from voters on Tuesday to criticize Republicans for their stance on climate change and social security programs. She took specific aim at Republicans who dodge questions on climate change by saying they are not scientists.
"I'm not a surgeon. I'm not an expert in a lot of things," she said. "That's why I try to educate myself and listen to people who do the work.
Associated Press writer Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin, contributed to this report.
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