You can’t be taken seriously as a Democratic candidate for president if you don’t promise free college.

John Wagner reports at the Washington Post.

How Martin O’Malley wants to lighten the load of college debt

Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley on Wednesday put forward an ambitious five-year goal of allowing students to graduate debt-free from public colleges and universities across the country.

The proposition is deeply personal for O’Malley: Aides say he and his wife have already incurred $339,200 in loans to put the two eldest of their four children through universities. And college affordability was a leading priority for O’Malley during his tenure as Maryland’s governor.

The issue is one being talked about a lot these days by Democrats, including the party’s other White House candidates, as more and more students enter the workforce with hefty debt loads.

O’Malley, who detailed his plan during a morning event in New Hampshire, called on states to freeze tuition rates at public colleges and universities — as Maryland did for four years — and proposed other measures that would help those carrying debt.

Under O’Malley’s plan, students and parents would be able to refinance their debt at lower interest rates. And O’Malley would base the repayment terms for student borrowers on their income upon graduation.

For the long term, O’Malley said he would set a goal of limiting college tuition to 10 percent of a state’s median income at four-year institutions and 5 percent at two-year institutions. Federal matching grants would help states that participate in reaching the goal.