MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker’s election-year call for a tuition freeze after gutting $1 billion from higher education and making no commitment to restoring funding to the university and technical systems is more “election-year gimmicks that insult the intelligence of taxpayers and students in Wisconsin,” according to One Wisconsin Now.
“Gov. Scott Walker has failed the students and student loan borrowers of Wisconsin, over and over and over,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director. “If you were to grade Gov. Walker and the Republicans’ failed stewardship of our university and technical college systems the question would be: ‘Can you give a grade lower than F?’”
Walker’s election-year call for a tuition freeze comes as his decisions to enact massive cuts to education, while financing billions of dollars in tax cuts to corporations and the wealthiest Wisconsinites, have increased student loan debt as students have to stay in college longer as required courses are less available. In addition, Walker has turned out-of-state students into cash cows for the university system, making it more likely in-state students will be denied the chance to attend the UW campus of their choosing.
A 2015 report by One Wisconsin Institute and the national think tank, Demos entitled, “Wisconsin’s Great Cost Shift: How Higher Education Cuts Undermine the State’s Future Middle Class,” showed that declining financial support for higher education by the state of Wisconsin has shifted costs onto students and families, increased student loan debt and decreased the affordability of higher education The study found the confluence of the these factors is “endangering the quality of its institutions of higher learning, threatening the state’s economic competitiveness and the future of its young people.”
Gov. Walker and the Republican majority in the state legislature have enacted the largest cuts to public education, including repeated cuts totaling $1 billion to the University of Wisconsin and the state technical college system. In addition UW students and their families were hit with a double digit tuition increase in the 2011 state budget along with stagnant levels of state financial aid. In fact, state student financial aid programs were so underfunded that over 40,000 eligible students were denied assistance last year.
In addition, Gov. Walker has presided over Wisconsin rising from 10th, when he took office, to 3rd highest in the entire nation for percentage of graduates with student loan debt — a full 70 percent of grads. At the same time, Walker opposes the student loan debt reform “Higher Ed, Lower Debt” bill, which would allow hundreds of thousands of student loan borrowers across Wisconsin to refinance their loans, just like you can a mortgage, at lower, market-based rates, and at no cost to taxpayers.
“Students and their families are doing the right thing – they’re working hard to get their education and they’ve taken on the personal responsibility to pay for it,” concluded Ross. “But Gov. Walker is making education less and less affordable, with serious consequences for our state economy and the best he can offer are election year gimmicks.