Wisconsin Joins National Top Ten… Of Percentage of State Students Graduating With Debt

New National Data Adds Urgency to Need for Action on Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act

MADISON, Wis. — The results of a new state-by-state survey by the Institute for College Access and Success show Wisconsin has the eighth highest percentage of college graduates with student loan debt in the nation, according to a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross said these latest statistics add urgency for the need for action on legislation to help borrowers.

Ross commented, “This is a top ten list no one should want to be on. The student loan debt crisis isn’t just hurting borrowers and their families, it is a clear and present danger to our entire economy. The good news is that there is legislation introduced in the Senate and Assembly that could help.”

The study by the Institute found that 68% of students graduating in Wisconsin in 2012 had student loan debt, the 8th highest percentage in the nation. In addition, Wisconsin ranked 14th in terms of average debt amount per student at $28,102. Also of concern is the finding that the average student loan debt, already the second largest form consumer debt in the nation and estimated to exceed $1.2 trillion, increased 10% over the last year.

To help Wisconsin borrowers, State Representative Cory Mason and Senator Dave Hansen have introduced the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act. The legislation, Assembly Bill 496 and Senate Bill 378, would:

  • Create a state authority to help borrowers refinance their student loans, just like you can a home mortgage;
  • Allow borrowers to deduct their student loan payments on their state income taxes, just like you can with home mortgage interest;
  • Require borrowers be given detailed information before entering into loan agreements, offer counseling to students and parents on the implications of student loans and require the state to collect and disseminate information about private lenders and maintain a ranking system; and
  • Track information about student loan debt in the state to help policy makers better understand the depth and breadth of the debt crisis in Wisconsin.

Earlier research by One Wisconsin Institute found that student loan debt has a significant, negative impact on Wisconsin’s economy, directly resulting in over $200 million in lost new vehicle sales on an annual basis and leaving student loan borrowers with solid middle class incomes two-thirds more likely to rent versus own their home.

“Borrowers have done the right thing, working hard and taking responsibility for funding their higher education or job training. But these latest statistics show how students and their families are increasingly being squeezed by an unfair system. Borrowers aren’t asking for a bailout but they deserve a system that treats them fairly and action on the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act,” concluded Ross.

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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.