MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker continues to oppose a common sense plan that could help hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin student loan borrowers by allowing them to refinance at a lower interest rate. One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross noted that Walker, whose term in office coincides with Wisconsin’s ranking for percentage of college graduates with debt rising from tenth to third nationally, has come up with his most ridiculous excuse to date for his intransigence on the refinancing issue, blaming Connecticut.
“Wisconsin borrowers have done the right thing, working hard to get their educations and taking on the personal responsibility to pay for it. They’ve earned a fair shot at the middle class and ought to be treated fairly and be able to refinance their student loans, just like you can with a mortgage,” said Ross. “Adding to the outrage of Gov. Walker refusing to help is that he’s justifying his partisan political intransigence by blaming Connecticut.”
The Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act, introduced in 2013 and again in 2015 by Senator Dave Hansen and Representative Cory Mason, and sponsored by fifty state legislators, would help Wisconsin borrowers by creating a state authority to help them refinance their student loans, just like you can with a mortgage. The bills, Senate Bill 194 and Assembly Bill 272, also help borrowers by extending a state tax break to payments on student loans.
Walker is publicly claiming he opposes the bills and allowing Wisconsin borrowers to refinance their student loans based on policies in Connecticut. But Ross noted that, much like his explanations underpinning his drive to gut anti-corruption protections for state workers, Walker relies on erroneous information.
The Chair of the Connecticut House Banking Committee and author of the Connecticut legislation Matthew Lesser said, “Scott Walker obviously put about as much thought into this as he put into his failed Presidential campaign. Our new program isn’t scheduled to release its first rates until late spring, but we expect them to be lower than the Federal Parent PLUS Loan. If he actually wants to help Wisconsin borrowers, he should give us a call.”
Based on statistics from the federal Department of Education, the White House indicated that 515,000 Wisconsinites would take advantage of a federal plan to allow the refinancing of their debt at lower interest rates. That plan is being blocked by Walker’s fellow Republicans in Washington D.C., including U.S. Senator Ron Johnson and House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Ross noted that not only is Walker providing misleading information about other states efforts to take on the $1.3 trillion student loan debt crisis, his track record in Wisconsin on the issue is abysmal. Under Walker, University of Wisconsin system tuition has been hiked by double digits, higher education and technical colleges have taken huge funding cuts totalling roughly $700 million and financial aid has been so woefully underfunded that over 40,000 students eligible for assistance were denied any help. The all too predictable result is more students graduating with more debt, facts confirmed by a recent national study from The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS).
He concluded, “Gov. Walker has zero credibility on the student debt issue, no real plan to help and no legitimate reason to oppose common sense refinancing. And it’s Wisconsin borrowers and our state economy paying the price for this guy’s bumbling.”