MADISON, Wis. — A mix up on dates was the excuse offered by state Senate candidate Dan Feyen for failing to appear in person at a candidate debate for the 18th Senate District seat sponsored by WFDL radio in Fond du Lac. Instead, Feyen literally phoned in his appearance during which time he expressed no concern for a $250 million cut to the University of Wisconsin System and glossed over the plight of over state student loan borrower who number nearly one million and owe a collective debt for their educations in excess of $19 billion.
“Dates and times aren’t the only thing that Dan Feyen has mixed up,” commented One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. “How else do you explain that Dan Feyen supports cuts that have hurt our state universities, including UW-Oshkosh, and contributed to a student loan debt crisis he’s ignoring?”
The University of Wisconsin System, subjected to historic cuts since Republicans took complete control of state government in 2010, including a $250 million cut in the 2013 state budget. During his phoned in October appearance in response to a question about impact of the budget cuts on the quality of the UW System Feyen declared,”… I don’t think we’ve seen a change at all.” In a July interview Feyen said, “I don’t think they’re struggling at all. I think they need to be managing their resources better … so I don’t think the $250 million cut hurt ‘em that much.”
However, the facts tell a very different story. In a document submitted by UW-Oshkosh to the UW System, they detailed the impact of the budget cuts on their campus, located in the 18th Senate District. Among the measures being taken as result of cuts Feyen alleged aren’t having an impact were, “fewer section offerings and larger class sizes; reduced academic advising and other support programs for students; limited opportunities to create and develop new academic program initiatives (DNP in Nurse Anesthetist, Ed.D, Executive MBA); less flexibility to respond quickly and appropriately to regional and state business needs.”
Media reports, as recently as July, also detailed the impact of cuts on the physical infrastructure of UW schools. And again, the impacts on UW-Oshkosh are dramatic. Maintenance is being delayed or deferred including the planetarium is closed and classes had to be moved from the building because of asbestos; older buildings are not being upgraded to be accessible to all students; roofs need to be replaced on three buildings; an elevator in an athletic arena has broken down multiple times, trapping fans inside; and money is being diverted from energy conservation efforts to fund academics.
Budget constraints have even forced the elimination of successful athletic programs at UW-Oshkosh with the elimination of the men’s soccer and tennis programs.
Feyen also expressed no interest in discussing the student loan debt crisis, despite massive support for reform in the 18th Senate District and Wisconsin’s rank as third highest in the nation for percentage of college graduates with student loan debt. Public opinion research in Wisconsin by respected national pollster Paul Harstad, on behalf of the Greater Wisconsin Committee, found “lopsided support” for allowing people to refinance their student loans, just like you can with a mortgage. In the 18th Senate District voters favored allowing student loans to be refinanced, just like you can with a mortgage by an 84 percent to 11 percent margin.
Ross concluded, “Higher education has always been a path to getting a fair shot at the middle class. Yet far too many Wisconsinites today who are working hard to get an education and taking on the personal responsibility to pay for it aren’t getting a fair shake. Unfortunately for them, with student loan debt exploding and Republicans making devastating cuts to the UW and technical colleges Dan Feyen is phoning it in when it comes to taking on these issues.”