MADISON, Wis. — Allowing student loans to be refinanced, just like you can a mortgage, is a common sense policy reform to help borrowers who worked hard for their education and took on the personal responsibility to pay for it have a fair shot at the middle class. Today, One Wisconsin Institute launched its interactive voter scorecard to educate the public on where state legislators stand on the critical issue of student debt. Additionally, One Wisconsin Institute has launched a “What They’re Saying” feature to inform the public about presidential and Wisconsin U.S. Senate candidates’ statements on student loan reform.
One Wisconsin Institute’s Student Loan Voter guide and other information about the student loan crisis, including stories from student loan borrowers, can be accessed at StudentLoanVoter.org.
“There are over 800,000 student loan borrowers that owe over $19 billion in federal student loan debt alone in Wisconsin. As a state, we’ve now risen to third highest in the nation for percentage of college graduates with student debt,” commented One Wisconsin Institute Program Director Analiese Eicher “This is a huge issue for Wisconsin voters and we want to make sure that they have information about who is, and who isn’t, supporting reform to help.”
One Wisconsin Institute has been at the forefront of raising awareness of the student loan debt crisis and educating the public about its economic impact. In 2012, the Institute unveiled a first of its kind report on the economic impact of student loan debt on Wisconsin’s economy, showing that student loan borrowers were far more likely to rent versus own their own home and that over $200 million in new vehicle sales were lost in the state every year, directly attributable to student debt.
As Wisconsin under Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican legislature rose to third highest in the nation for percentage of college graduates with student debt, One Wisconsin Institute partnered with the national think tank Demos on a report, Wisconsin’s Great Cost Shift: How Higher Education Cuts Undermine the State’s Future Middle Class, that showed how declining financial support for higher education by the state of Wisconsin has shifted costs onto students and families, increased student loan debt and decreased the affordability of higher education.
“We’ve worked with One Wisconsin Institute in building the student loan debt movement across the country into a movement that cannot be denied or ignored,” said Natalia Abrams, Executive Director of Student Debt Crisis. “This voter guide is another great step in furthering our movement.”
Organizing borrowers through projects like StudentLoanVoter.org and relentless earned media communications set the stage for Wisconsin being the first state in the nation to introduce state based student loan refinancing plan. In addition, members of Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and House members Mark Pocan, Gwen Moore and Ron Kind, have been champions of allowing the refinancing of federal student loans and supporting other common sense reforms to help borrowers. Student loan reform is now even an issue being featured by candidates for President.
Scot Ross, Executive Director of One Wisconsin Institute noted that student loan debt reform is about lowering the burden for hardworking borrowers who have been treated unfairly in the current system, and that was the standard used in evaluating the merits of legislation and legislative action used in creating the scorecard.
Ross concluded, “More than 43 million Americans, including nearly one million Wisconsinites, are bearing the weight of over $1.3 trillion in debt because they worked hard to get and education and took on the personal responsibility to pay for it. Ignoring student loan debt is the new third rail of American politics and we’re committed to creating a movement to put reforming this broken system at the top of the agenda for policymakers in Wisconsin and in Washington D.C.”