MADISON, Wis. — One Wisconsin Now is asking Gov. Scott Walker to put passage of the ‘Higher Ed, Lower Debt’ student loan reform and refinancing bill at the top of his 2016 New Year’s Resolution list. The legislation, authored by Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine) and Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and co-sponsored by every Democratic members of the state legislature, would allow borrowers the opportunity to refinance their student loans, just like you can a mortgage or auto loan.
“Gov. Walker can make 2016 a Happy New Year for hundreds of thousands of hardworking student loan borrowers in the state of Wisconsin,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now. “You get the bill passed and signed and hundreds of thousands of borrowers, their families and local businesses will be popping champagne corks.”
A comprehensive 50 state study on student loan debt for 2014 released by The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) finds seventy percent of Wisconsin’s graduates have student loan debt, the third highest percentage in the nation, and the average debt load of over $28,800 ranks Wisconsin seventeenth nationally. Since 2011, Wisconsin has risen from tenth to third-highest in the nation for percent of graduates with student debt. The study also found over the last decade Wisconsin graduates were saddled with a seventy four percent increase in the amount of debt upon graduation and that ten percent more graduates were leaving school with student debt.
“There are only two things Gov. Walker can do to reduce existing debt on student loan borrowers: forgive the debt, or allow students to refinance their loans at lower rates under the ‘Higher Ed, Lower Debt, bill,” said Ross. “The first would cost $19 billion, the other, costs nothing.”
Ross noted that the policies pursued by Walker and legislative Republicans — slashing state support for higher education, hiking tuition by double digits and failing to provide enough funding for financial aid for eligible students — have predictably resulted in students and their families finding themselves deeper in debt to pay for their higher education.