MADISON, Wis. — One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross today called on State Representatives-elect Jessie Rodriguez and Bob Kulp to join 54 soon to be colleagues and publicly support the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act. The first in the nation legislation, Assembly Bill 498 and Senate Bill 376, would help families better manage their existing student loan debt and provide counseling and consumer information to help prospective borrowers.
Ross commented, “Student loan debt is now the second largest consumer debt in the nation, and it’s growing at an alarming rate. In Wisconsin, student loan debt is a crisis that hits family budgets across the board — Republicans and Democrats, young people and retirees, students at universities and technical colleges, and residents of rural and urban communities.”
According to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, 753,000 individuals in Wisconsin have student loans through the federal government alone. The Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act would help these and private loan borrowers get a fair shot at the middle class by:
- Creating a state authority to help borrowers refinance their student loans, just like you can a home mortgage;
- Allowing borrowers to deduct their student loan payments on their state income taxes, just like you can with home mortgage interest;
- Requiring borrowers be given detailed information before entering into loan agreements, offer counseling to students and parents on the implications of student loans and require the state to collect and disseminate information about private lenders and maintain a ranking system; and
- Tracking information about student loan debt in the state to help policy makers better understand the depth and breadth of the debt crisis in Wisconsin.
Earlier original research by One Wisconsin Institute found that student loan debt presents a clear and present danger not just to borrowers’ family budgets but the entire Wisconsin economy. Student loan debt is directly responsible for over $200 million in lost new vehicle sales on an annual basis and student loan borrowers with solid middle class incomes are two-thirds more likely to rent versus own their home.
“Student loan borrowers have done the right thing, working hard to get ahead with school or job training and taking on the personal responsibility to pay for it. But they’re increasingly squeezed by skyrocketing tuition, cutbacks in state funding for higher education and job training and profiteering by big banks and the federal government,” Ross said.
He noted that Rodriguez appears to have particular experience with student loan debt. As reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in her 2006 bankruptcy filing she and her husband, conservative blogger Aaron Rodriguez, reported $57,000 in student loan debt.
“Borrowers aren’t asking for a bailout, but they deserve a system that treats them fairly. I hope soon-to-be Representatives Rodriguez and Kulp take advantage of their new positions of leadership to help reinvigorate our economy and help thousands of their constituents by supporting a Wisconsin solution to the $1.2 trillion student loan debt crisis,” concluded Ross.