MADISON, Wis. — Instead of helping hard working Wisconsin borrowers lower their monthly student loan payments, Republicans on the State Senate Colleges and Universities Committee endorsed Gov. Scott Walker’s plan that fails to reduce the monthly payment of any Wisconsin student loan borrowers and denies any help to 97 percent of the nearly one million state residents with student loan debt. One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross blasted the latest GOP failure to offer real help reform to the student loan debt crisis.
He commented, “Gov. Walker and the Republicans have been exposed as phonies on the student loan debt crisis. They’ve made the crisis worse and now instead of real reform they’re denying borrowers any help lowering their monthly payments. You should be able to refinance your student loan, just like you can a mortgage and Walker, Harsdorf and the Republicans are standing in the way.”
Since 2013 Republicans in the state legislature and Gov. Walker have blocked the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act. The legislation, supported by all 50 Democrats in the Senate and Assembly, would help Wisconsin borrowers to refinance their student loans, just like you can with a mortgage. The plan would also extend an existing state tax deduction to include student loan payments and provide additional information and loan counseling to borrowers.
While the GOP today may be trying to give themselves political cover on the student debt issue, Ross noted that their actions over the last five years have demonstrably worsened the crisis in Wisconsin. 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 they have hiked tuition by 11% and so woefully underfunded financial aid that 41,000 students eligible for aid received none.
The result is that Wisconsin has risen to third highest in the nation for percentage of college graduates with student debt with seventy percent of the class of 2014 having left school with an average debt of nearly $28,000.
In addition to the economic harm to borrowers as a direct result of the student loan debt crisis, other states are attempting to use Wisconsin’s refusal to act to help to lure away employers. Recently revealed emails between the state big business lobby and Gov. Walker’s scandal plagued Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) show other states were offering incentives to help reduce employees student loan debt in an effort to take businesses and jobs from Wisconsin.
“Already Gov. Walker and his Republican legislature’s failure to act has cost Wisconsin borrowers and their families big money. And as they continue to stonewall real reforms to help they’re going to cost our economy even more in lost economic activity and lost jobs,” concluded Ross.