MADISON, Wis. — From U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson to Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-led state legislature, Wisconsin Republicans stand united against common sense solutions to the student loan debt crisis that today marks the fourth anniversary of hitting and surpassing the $1 trillion mark. One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross noted that with the GOP in charge and Johnson in Washington D.C., Wisconsin has risen to third highest in the nation for the percentage of college graduates with a share of what is now over $1.3 trillion in student debt.
“As the student loan debt crisis worsens in Wisconsin there is one constant,” commented Ross. “Republicans in Washington D.C., the Governor’s mansion and the state legislature remain opposed to common sense solutions to help nearly one million Wisconsin borrowers.”
For the second consecutive session of the state legislature, Walker and the GOP actively opposed allowing Wisconsin student loan borrowers to refinance their student loans, just like you can with a mortgage. The refinancing provision along with significant state tax relief and additional consumer information was part of the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act, supported by state Democrats, that GOP legislators voted against considering and Walker publicly opposed.
What Walker and his state legislative Republican cohorts have done instead is make the debt crisis worse — cutting nearly $1 billion in funding for the University of Wisconsin and technical college systems, adopting a double digit tuition hike and so woefully underfunding financial aid that roughly 40,000 eligible students received zero assistance.
Meanwhile in Washington D.C., Sen. Ron Johnson has offered a tour de force of ignorance and insensitivity to the plight of hard working student loan borrowers who took on the personal responsibility to pay for their education. Wisconsin’s senior United States Senator has on multiple occasions voted against legislation sponsored by Sen. Baldwin allowing borrowers to refinance student loans, just like you can with a mortgage.
Sen. Johnson has also pointed to students themselves as causes of the crises of student loan debt and college affordability in public statements, based on his experience in the mid-1970s, when his tuition at the University of Minnesota was 1,700 percent lower than it is today. He has also suggested that the federal government should not be involved in helping students with low interest loans or other means to help fund students higher education.
Research by One Wisconsin Institute and others has shown the student loan debt burden is a significant drag on the state and national economy and that policy makers are shifting the burden for higher education and job training onto the backs of Wisconsin families. Borrowers are more likely to rent versus own their own home, drive a used versus new vehicle and defer things like saving for retirement or a child’s education.
Ross concluded, “Common sense reforms and solutions to help borrowers and drive our economy are before policy makers here and in Washington D.C, what we need now are people willing to do the right thing and take action.”