MADISON, Wis. — A GOP-controlled committee examining changes to the governance and funding sources of the Wisconsin Technical College System appears poised to ignore the critical issue of affordability for students. A scope statement for the Legislative Council Study Committee on the Review of Technical College Funding indicates they will consider changes to governance and the funding mix between local and state revenue – but makes no mention of tuition for students and workers receiving training
“Gov. Walker and the Republican legislature have been an absolute disaster when it comes to supporting higher education and job training and taking on the student loan debt crisis,” said One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. “Refusing to take up the issue of student debt and affordability at our state technical colleges is just another on their long list of failures.”
Original research on student loan debt conducted by One Wisconsin Institute found that students with technical college or two-year degrees reported taking an average of 16.8 years to pay off their student loans. Overall student loan debt had a significant negative impact on the state economy. Borrowers were much more likely to rent versus own their home and buy a used versus new vehicle. Over $200 million in new vehicle sales are lost annually in Wisconsin, directly attributable to student loan debt.
According to documents provided to the committee, in the 2012-13 fiscal year, tuition and fees were the second largest source of revenue for the technical colleges system. Ross noted that Gov. Walker and legislative Republican’s previous actions are reason for grave concern about the direction of the funding committee, specifically:
Hiking tuition and cutting state support for public education: In his first budget, Gov. Walker and the GOP slashed funding for technical colleges by over 30% and enacted an 11% tuition increase for University of Wisconsin System schools. Students will pay well in excess of $200 million in tuition over Gov. Walker’s four years in office because of his budget. Cuts to state funding for the University of Wisconsin and technical college system total nearly $400 million in their two state budgets.
Flat-lining and cutting state financial aid: Under Gov. Walker and the GOP, state financial aid programs for eligible students have received no new funds, even as double-digit tuition increases were signed into law. In addition, the Wisconsin Covenant program was phased out, reducing state tuition assistance by $38 million over two years.
Refusing to help current borrowers: All members of the GOP legislature opposed allowing consideration of a bill that would have helped current student loan borrowers refinance their loans and deduct student loan payments from their state taxes, just like you can with a mortgage. Despite entreaties from legislators, Gov. Walker has refused to call a special session to revive this legislation to help student loan borrowers.
Ross concluded, “Sadly for the students and workers trying to do the right thing and get ahead it looks like Gov. Walker and his lapdog Republican legislature are ready to serve up more tax breaks for the wealthy and special interests while allowing borrowers to fall deeper in to debt to pay for their education or job training.”