MADISON, Wis. — Under Gov. Walker and the Republican state legislature, students have endured a 30% cut to technical colleges and will have paid over $200 million more in tuition over four years to attend University of Wisconsin systems schools. But according to One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross there may be hope on the horizon for students and student loan borrowers. Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke has included key provisions of the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act in her “Invest for Success” jobs plan released today.
“Mary Burke gets it,” said Ross. “Student loan debt is a clear and present danger to our economy and has become a multi-decade debt sentence instead of a path to the middle class for hundreds of thousands of hard working Wisconsinites. It’s time we get serious about reform before the $1.2 trillion student loan debt crisis becomes a full blown economic catastrophe.”
Original research by One Wisconsin Institute found that borrowers with an undergraduate degree in Wisconsin were making average payments of nearly $350 per month for almost 19 years. The economic impacts include over $200 million in lost new car sales annually and significantly lower rates of home ownership among student loan borrowers versus their economic peers without debt. Among the provisions of Burke’s comprehensive jobs plan are measures to help increase access to college and job training and provide relief to borrowers currently paying off student loan debt. Burke proposes:
- Creating a state authority to help borrowers refinance their loans, just like you can with a home mortgage;
- Increasing the amount of a state tax deduction for tuition;
- Allowing borrowers to deduct student loan payments from their state taxes.
Ross commented, “Common sense provisions like allowing borrowers to refinance loans and expanding tax deductions for tuition and student loan debt will help create a more educated workforce, increase consumer spending and spur entrepreneurism and small business creation in Wisconsin.”
Several provisions in Burke’s plan were included in the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act (Assembly Bill 498 and Senate Bill 376) introduced by State Representative Cory Mason and Senator Dave Hansen. Burke’s prospective running mate, Lieutenant Governor candidate and State Senator John Lehman, is a co-sponsor of the bills. The bills garnered broad based support from students, borrowers and organizations representing small businesses, social workers, dentists, teachers and organized labor.
Governor Walker has remained silent on the student loan debt crisis. Meanwhile the Republican controlled legislature voted against allowing the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act to be debated and voted on by the full Senate and Assembly.
Ross concluded, “Students and borrowers have done the right thing – they have worked hard and took on the personal responsibility of paying for their education. They’re not asking for a bailout, just a system that treats them fairly and gives them the shot at the middle class that they’ve earned. It’s great to see at least one candidate for Governor is proposing reforms to give them that opportunity.”