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Press Release
October 18, 2016

Student Loan Debt a Defining Issue Between Russ Feingold and Sen. Ron Johnson

New Report Finds Average Amount of Student Loan Debt on the Rise in Wisconsin in Advance of Senate Debate

MADISON, Wis. — The latest research from The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) finds rising levels of student debt among the class of 2015 graduates, at an average of $29,460, while the percentage of graduates with debt remains unchanged from last year at 70 percent. According to One Wisconsin Now Program Director Analiese Eicher, the latest increase in the burden of student debt adds urgency to what has been a defining issue in the 2016 race for the U.S. Senate in Wisconsin.

Student loan debt is the economic issue for hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites. It’s impacting their family budgets, standing between them and a new home, a new car or saving for retirement or a child’s education, and it’s slowing our entire economy,” commented Eicher. “There is no longer any question of if we need to address the student loan debt crisis. The question now is when are policymakers going to act on real reform to help over 43 million American borrowers with over $1.3 trillion in student loan debt?”

The TICAS report analyzes student debt in all fifty states and finds that, nationally, debt levels have risen since last year. Wisconsin mirrors the trend, with average debt rising from $28,810 in 2014 to $29,460 in 2015. With 70 percent of class of 2015 leaving school with student debt, the same percentage TICAS found for the state class of 2014, Wisconsin remains in the top five states nationally for percentage of graduates with debt.

In response to the crisis of student debt and college affordability, Russ Feingold has sided with student loan borrowers calling for common sense reform to allow them to refinance their loans, just like you can with a mortgage.

According to statistics from the federal government there are over 800,000 borrowers with over $19 billion in federal student loan debt alone. The White House has previously estimated that approximately 515,000 of these borrowers could take advantage of the the opportunity to refinance their loans within the first year of being able to do so, as Feingold has proposed.

Meanwhile, Sen. Johnson has not only repeatedly opposed allowing borrowers to refinance their loans but has gone on to declare that too much financial aid for eligible students was the real problem, saying the federal government should not be involved in helping students with low interest loans or other means to help fund students’ higher education. Instead, Johnson promotes more for-profit colleges, like Trump University, as a solution.

The multi-millionaire Sen. Johnson has even pointed to students themselves as causes of the crises of student loan debt and college affordability, based on his experience in the mid-1970s, when his $663 tuition at the University of Minnesota was 1,700 percent lower than it is today.

Perhaps most laughable are Sen. Johnson’s ideas on educational instruction. At an appearance in Milwaukee in August he declared “If you wanna teach the Civil War across the country, are you better having tens of thousands of history teachers who kinda know the subject, or would you be better off popping in 14 hours of Ken Burns Civil War tape…”

Eicher concluded, “It could not be more clear that the student loan debt crisis demands real reform to help borrowers who worked hard to get their education and took on the personal responsibility to pay for it. And in the debate between Russ Feingold and Sen. Ron Johnson it could not be more clear that one candidate is ready to help Wisconsin borrowers get the fair shot at the middle class that they’ve earned while the other could not be more out of touch.”

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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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