MADISON, Wis. — In announcing an agenda that includes an even more expansive, unaccountable public-funded private school voucher program and targets poor people for drug tests, Gov. Scott Walker and legislative Republicans have left the nearly one million Wisconsin student loan borrowers out in the cold. One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross noted that brand new national research shows that Wisconsin, with 70 percent of 2013 graduates having student loan debt, now ranks fourth highest in the nation for percentage of graduates with debt.
“As the $1.2 trillion student loan debt crisis deepens and 70 percent of 2013 Wisconsin graduates leave school with debt, it is appalling Gov. Walker and the Republican legislative majority have again turned their back on the hard working college graduates saddled with massive education debt,” said Ross.
A new report released by The Institute for College Access and Success found that 70 percent of Wisconsin’s 2013 graduates from four-year public and private non-profit colleges and universities have student loan debt. That percentage is good for the fourth highest percentage of graduates with debt nationally. The average debt for the 2013 class of state borrowers was $28,128, seventeenth highest nationally.
Despite this and other research showing the serious and growing nature of the student loan debt crisis, neither Gov. Walker nor GOP leaders of the Senate and Assembly included any mention of relief for borrowers among their legislative priorities for the upcoming 2015 budget and legislative session.
Ross noted that the indifference of Gov. Walker and the GOP-controlled legislature to student loan debt is not a surprise given their track record. Since 2011 Walker and the GOP have hiked tuition and cut state support for higher education, flat-lined and even cut state financial aid programs for eligible students and refused to consider legislation to help state student loan borrowers refinance their loans, just like you can with a mortgage.
Original research from One Wisconsin Institute found that student loan debt has a significant and negative impact on the Wisconsin economy. Borrowers are much more likely to rent versus own their home and over $200 million in new car sales are lost annually due directly to student loan debt.
Ross concluded, “For decades, we invested in public higher education and training in Wisconsin to give people a chance at the American Dream. Today, we levy what is essentially a ‘higher education and training tax’ against nearly 1 million Wisconsinites in the form of student loan debt. Student loan debt is getting worse in Wisconsin, with a now fourth highest in the nation percentage of graduates being forced to take out loans to pay for their education. If we are going to help our graduates get the fair shot at the middle class that they’ve earned, student loan debt reform has to be at the top of the agenda.”