MADISON, Wis. — Recent financial disclosures from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker reveal that, like 43 million other Americans, his children have taken on student loan debt to pay for their higher education. The Walker family’s tab is in excess of $100,000 at an interest rate of 7.21%. Unlike most Americans, Walker has refused to support a common sense proposal to allow student loan borrowers to refinance, just like you can with a mortgage.
One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross commented, “Gov. Walker’s refusal to embrace a common sense plan to allow student loan borrowers to refinance their loans like you can a mortgage has been mystifying. But now that we find his own children are saddled with over $100,000 in debt at an interest rate over 7.2 percent, his intransigence in addressing this crisis that affects so many Wisconsin families is all the more appalling.”
Nationally, over 43 million Americans have over $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. In Wisconsin, nearly one million borrowers are paying on in excess of $18 billion in student loans. Original research by One Wisconsin Institute found Wisconsin borrowers reporting average student loan debt payments of $388 per month over a term of 18 to 22 years. This debt has a dramatic, negative economic impact on the state with borrowers significantly more likely to rent versus own their home and drive a used versus new vehicle than Wisconsinites without the burden of student loan debt.
In the 2013 Wisconsin legislative session and again in 2015 the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act has been introduced to allow Wisconsin borrowers to refinance their student loan, just like you can a mortgage. The act would also give the middle class significant tax savings by expanding a state tax deduction to include student loan debt payments. The 2015 bill, introduced by Rep. Cory Mason and Sen. Dave Hansen has the support of 50 legislative cosponsors.
Walker ignored calls to revive the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act after fellow Republicans in the 2013 legislative session voted down efforts to bring the measure before the Assembly and Senate. He even went so far as to ask whether the proposal is “more than just politics,” when questioned by reporters and taunt Democrats supporting commons sense refinancing that, “If it was a good idea, I’m sure they would have passed it four years ago when they controlled the Assembly and the Senate and the governorship,”
While turning his back on borrowers, including his own children, when it comes to refinancing student loans, Walker also enacted an 11% tuition increase for University of Wisconsin schools and cut state funding for the University of Wisconsin (UW) and Wisconsin Technical College System by nearly $700 million in his three state budgets. The latest $250 million cut to the UW recently signed into law by Walker makes Wisconsin unique as one of the only states in the country still cutting higher education investments. State financial aid programs for eligible students have also been chronically underfunded, leaving tens of thousands of eligible students with no assistance.
Ross concluded, “Student loan borrowers in Wisconsin and across the nation have worked hard to get an education and took on the personal responsibility to pay for it. Gov. Walker owes his sons and the 43 million other Americans with student loan debt an explanation for why he thinks they shouldn’t be able to refinance their loans, just like you can with a mortgage.”