MADISON, Wis. — Republicans on the State Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities today voted for a package of bills that will do nothing to reduce skyrocketing student loan debt, while rejecting a Democratic a plan to let Wisconsin borrowers the opportunity to refinance their loans at lower rates, like you can a mortgage or auto loan. One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross applauded the committee’s Democratic members, who continued to fight for real student loan reform and voted against Gov. Scott Walker and the Republicans’ “do-nothing scheme.”
“There’s a $19 billion student loan debt crisis in Wisconsin today, and there are common sense reforms that the legislature can pass to help hundreds of thousands of hard working student loan borrowers,” said Ross. “But Gov. Walker and legislative Republicans are instead ducking for political cover while denying borrowers any real help.”
While touting their own series of bills, Walker and his fellow legislative Republicans are again opposing the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act. First introduced in 2013 and again in 2015 by legislative Democrats, the plan 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 that could provide an annual tax benefit of over $530 for an individual or $1,000 for a couple and provides additional consumer information about higher education loans.
Not only are Walker and fellow Republicans denying any help lowering monthly payments for borrowers, but also they’ve pursued policies that have exacerbated the $1.3 trillion student loan debt crisis for Wisconsinites. A recent memo from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau notes that funding for the University of Wisconsin System and Technical Colleges has been reduced by nearly $1 billion when compared to the year before Walker entered office. In addition Walker and the Republican majority hiked tuition by 11% in their budget and so woefully underfunded financial aid that 41,000 students eligible for aid received none.
The all too predictable result has been increasing levels of student debt – Wisconsin now ranks third highest in the nation for percentage of college graduates with student debt, up from tenth highest when Gov. Walker took office.
Ross concluded, “None of the bills passed today by Republicans will reduce the monthly payment of any of Wisconsin’s one million student loan borrowers. When you deny them any help lowering their monthly payments and shut out 97 percent of them from any benefit, nearly one million Wisconsin borrowers are going to see right through the Republican charade on student debt. And I don’t expect they’ll be amused.”