MADISON, Wis. — Student loan debt and the need for reform of a broken system will be front and center in Wisconsin as Hillary Clinton visits the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, where over 70 percent of recent graduates left with an average student loan debt exceeding $33,000. Despite a national $1.3 trillion student debt crisis and research showing it’s devastating economic impact, Gov. Scott Walker has steadfastly refused to support reforms.
“The $1.3 trillion in student loan debt held by 43 million Americans, including nearly a million borrowers in Wisconsin who owe over $18 billion, was spawned by cuts in support for higher education, tuition increases and underfunded financial aid for eligible students,” said One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. ”Scott Walker has hit that trifecta here in Wisconsin and earned his status as the worst governor in America on student loan debt.”
Walker’s record of failure in Wisconsin includes:
- Cutting almost $700 million from the University of Wisconsin and technical college systems, including $250 million in his most recent budget;
- Signing into law double digit tuition increases while failing to fully fund financial aid, leaving tens of thousands of eligible students with no help;
- Consistently refusing to support state legislation introduced in 2013 and again in 2015 to allow borrowers to refinance student loans; and
- Attempting to eliminate the state agency in charge of overseeing private, for-profit colleges.
A research report from One Wisconsin Institute in association with the national think tank Demos shows how these regressive higher education policies have shifted costs onto consumers, increased student loan debt and decreased the affordability of higher education. The confluence of the these factors endangers the quality of Wisconsin’s institutions of higher learning, threatening the state’s economic competitiveness and the future of its young people.
Earlier research by One Wisconsin Institute found the student loan debt crisis has a significant, negative effect on borrowers and the Wisconsin economy. Borrowers reported average student loan debt payments of $388 per month over a term of 18 to 22 years and are significantly more likely to rent versus own their home and drive a used versus new vehicle than Wisconsinites without the burden of student loan debt.
Ross concluded, “Gov. Walker hasn’t just refused to support common sense measures allowing borrowers to refinance a student loan, just like you can with a mortgage. He has actively pursued policies that put hard working students, taking on the personal responsibility to pay for their education, in a deeper hole of student debt instead of on the path to the middle class.”