wisconsin capitol
Press Release
August 7, 2014

Legislators, Reform Advocates to U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson: State of the Nation Includes Too Much Student Debt

Meanwhile Johnson, GOP Colleagues Oppose Common Sense Reform to Allow Student Loan Refinancing

GREEN BAY, Wis. — U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson was in Green Bay Thursday to deliver what he termed a “state of the nation” speech at the private, for profit Globe University in Green Bay. Prior to the event One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross denounced Johnson’s as harmful to the best interests of the nation and the economic futures of the over 40 million borrowers with $1.2 trillion in student loan debt.

“The $1.2 trillion student loan debt crisis is a clear and present danger not only to the finances of the over 40 million Americans with student loan debt, but to our entire economy,” said Ross. “Despite the data and urgent need for action, Sen. Johnson voted against common sense reforms like allowing borrowers to refinance their loans and has advocated for disastrous policies like creating more private, for-profit colleges.”

Sen. Johnson’s antipathy on the current debt crisis seems to stem from his personal experience in the 1970s that he frequently refers to when speaking on the issue. Johnson graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1977, when the annual tuition was $663 a year. The most recent annual tuition for a state resident at Johnson’s alma mater is now $12,060 — 1,700 percent higher than when he graduated.

Joining with his Republican Senate colleagues, Johnson recently voted against allowing action on a bill by authored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and sponsored by Sen. Tammy Baldwin to allow student loans to be refinanced. According to statistics from the federal Department of Education, there are 812,000 borrowers with over $18.2 billion in federal student loan debt in Wisconsin. Fiscal estimates of the federal refinancing legislation project 20 million borrowers would refinance their loans within 18 months including, according to White House projections, an estimated 515,000 Wisconsin borrowers.

In public comments on the student loan debt crisis Johnson has also said that he believes a possible solution to crushing debt loads are more private, for-profit colleges. Citing statistics on the private, for profit Globe University where Sen. Johnson is speaking as an example, Ross noted the inanity of that so-called “solution.”

It has been reported that 96 percent of Globe students take out student loans and graduate with an average of nearly $45,000 in debt. Globe also partners with another company to provide loans to students with interest rates massively higher than market rates, usually in the 18 percent range. In addition, current and former students at Globe University sued in a class action lawsuit over allegations of misleading and deceptive practices by the institution.

“Student loan borrowers have done the right thing – they worked hard and took on the personal responsibility to pay for their education or job training. But they’re caught in a system that’s broken and in desperate need of reform.” Ross concluded, “Unfortunately the state of the nation is, whether from ignorance or ideological intransigence, Sen. Johnson and his GOP colleagues are standing in the way of the relief borrowers need and deserve.”

# # #

One Wisconsin Now is a statewide communications network specializing in effective earned media and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values.

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