MADISON, Wis. — The latest round of right-wing University of Wisconsin System bashing, this time over an annual report indicating the system has surpluses in several accounts, could be more bad news for students, their families and Wisconsin’s economy according to One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross.
“Right-wing finger-pointing over reports of University of Wisconsin System surpluses is distracting from the real crisis, the trillion dollar plus student loan debt crisis that not only hurts students and their families but is a huge drag on our economy,” commented Ross.
Original research by the One Wisconsin Institute showed student loan debt has a dramatic, negative impact on students and families and Wisconsin’s economy.
Individuals with bachelor degrees with student loan debt were making average monthly payments of $350 on loans with an average term of nearly 19 years. Over $200 million in annual new car sales are lost as a direct result of student loan debt and households with student loan debt are significantly more likely to rent rather than own their home. In fact, the research found that over 85% of renters reporting solid middle class incomes between $50,000 and $75,000 were making student loan payments.
Several legislators have, in light of the report on UW’s finances, suggested freezing tuition to which Ross responded, “Freezing tuition is an important step to stop the trillion dollar student loan debt crisis from becoming a two trillion dollar student loan crisis, but it doesn’t fix the problem that is already burdening too many Wisconsinites and dragging down our economy.”
He also noted that the right-wing rhetoric could preview more fund raids to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, an expansion of the private school voucher program or to fund more borrowing for road construction. Gov. Walker’s 2013-15 budget scheme proposes raiding over $340 million in funds for spending other than those that the funds are set aside. In the 2011-13 budget enacted into law, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau identified over $400 million in fund raids.
Ross concluded, “It will be an outrage if the latest round of right-wing UW bashing is just an excuse for another fund raid to pay for their agenda of more tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations and more public funds for the private school voucher program.”