MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker is reported to be taking flight in a state airplane on a media tour following his 2017 state of the state address. Among the topics he is expected to discuss is his recycled advice to Wisconsin borrowers to “call a bank” to help them deal with the student loan debt crisis. One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross noted that there are nearly one million student loan borrowers in Wisconsin with $19 billion in federal student loan debt alone, and 43 million borrowers with over $1.4 trillion in debt nationally, yet the financial industry has failed to help solve the problem.
“Gov. Walker is either incredibly naive or purposely disingenuous on the student loan debt crisis,” commented Ross. “If banks could have solved a problem that would have gotten them 43 million customers, don’t you think they already would have? The system isn’t treating borrowers fairly, it needs to be reformed and we need our elected leaders to step up with real solutions.”
The policies of Gov. Walker and the Republican legislature, cutting funding for higher education by record amounts, underfunding financial aid for eligible students and hiking tuition by double digits, have contributed to the growing crisis of student loan debt. And on Scott Walker’s watch, Wisconsin is in the top five states in the nation for the percentage of graduates with student loan debt. The state also ranks sixteenth for the amount of debt carried by graduates with the average University of Wisconsin student matriculating with an average debt of nearly $30,000.
According to research, the student loan debt burden is harming borrowers economic prospects and hindering the state economy, reducing new car purchasing, rates of homeownership and entrepreneurism.
Meanwhile, Gov. Walker has joined with legislative Republicans in Wisconsin and in Washington D.C. in blocking action on reform. In Wisconsin the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act has been introduced for two consecutive legislative sessions. The common sense measure would create a state authority to help borrowers refinance their student loans, just like you can with a mortgage. The measure also extends a state tax break to payments on student loans and provides additional consumer information about higher education loans.
Ross concluded, “The student loan debt crisis in not a new phenomenon that only burdens a select few. It is a state and national crisis, it is a multi-generational crisis and it is a worsening crisis. Telling people to call their bank isn’t a solution, it’s a dodge. And the nearly one million Wisconsin borrowers who worked hard to get their education and took on the responsibility to pay for it deserve better from the governor.”