MADISON, Wis. — The national ‘PBS NewsHour’ program, as part of its weeklong series “Rethinking College” will feature One Wisconsin Now’s work on the student loan debt crisis in a segment airing Tuesday evening. The piece, entitled “Wisconsin group wants to turn student loan borrowers into activists,” also features U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, U.S. Army Veteran and current UW-Waukesha student Saul Newton and recent UW-Madison graduate Ann DeGarmo.
“The student loan debt crisis is a clear and present danger to the Wisconsin way of life,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director. “We’re lucky to have Wisconsin leaders on this issue at the state and federal levels crafting groundbreaking, common sense legislation that would allow you to refinance your student loan, just like you can a mortgage or any other loan.”
In October 2013, Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine) and Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) introduced common sense reforms including refinancing and a tax break for borrowers in their historic Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act. Despite having 54 co-sponsors, Walker’s Republican allies killed the bill. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke included these proposals in her comprehensive jobs and economic development blueprint for the state.
At the federal level, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin co-authored with Sen. Elizabeth Warren a student loan refinancing bill and U.S. Reps. Ron Kind, Gwen Moore and Pocan have all fought for student loan reforms.
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.
“Having our work featured on national television is a great honor and a tremendous boost to raise awareness about this crisis. Now we need to turn awareness into action to help the more than 800,000 Wisconsinites with student loan debt,” Ross said. “Student loan borrowers worked hard to get their education or job training, and they took the personal responsibility to pay for it. They deserve to be treated fairly by the system, and by working together and demanding action we can make that happen.”
More information about One Wisconsin Now’s student loan work can be found at http://www.onewisconsinnow.org/press/.