MADISON, Wis. — In America today there are over 43 million people with student loan debts exceeding $1.3 trillion. Yet the speeches of three Wisconsin officials – Reps. Paul Ryan and Sean Duffy and Sen. Ron Johnson – contained zero references to the crisis of student debt. Next up is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who likes to talk about freezing tuition while his son is in college, but has overseen the rise of the state to third highest in the nation for percentage of graduates with student loan debt.
“Wisconsin Republicans at the RNC may have ignored the student loan debt crisis in their speeches so far, but they’ve made it far worse with both their action and inaction,” commented One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. “And now tonight we get to hear from the worst governor in America on student loan debt.”
Ross noted that Sen. Ron Johnson has compiled an abysmal record on the student loan debt issue. He has cast multiple votes against allowing student loans to be refinanced just like you can with a mortgage, suggested that the federal government should not be involved in helping students with low interest loans or other means to help fund students’ higher education and publicly declared that more private for-profit colleges would somehow help resolve the crisis. Johnson has even pointed to students themselves as causes of the crises of student loan debt and college affordability, based on his experience in the mid-1970s, when his $663 tuition at the University of Minnesota was 1,700 percent lower than it is today.
In the House of Representatives Paul Ryan has proposed plans that would have decimated funding for financial aid for eligible students and, along with Sean Duffy, has steadfastly opposed allowing action on legislation to allow the refinancing of federal student loans.
The cost of the Republican delegation in Washington D.C. on home state borrowers has been enormous. According to statistics from the federal government, 515,000 Wisconsin student loan borrowers could have lowered their interest rates if they were allowed to refinance.
Meanwhile, as Governor, Walker has had ample opportunity to take on a student loan debt crisis affecting nearly one million Wisconsinites with debt of at least $19 billion. He has failed miserably, presiding over the state’s rise to third highest in the nation for percentage of college graduates with student loan debt while opposing state legislation to allow borrowers to refinance their loans at a lower interest rate.
While Walker brags of a limited tuition freeze he has enacted while his son attends the University of Wisconsin Madison he had previously imposed double digit tuition hikes. Walker’s underfunding of financial aid has left on average 40,000 students eligible for aid with nothing and he has slashed state funding for the University of Wisconsin and technical colleges by nearly $1 billion.
Ross concluded, “We may never know whether these Republicans have chosen to ignore the student loan debt crisis out of ignorance, embarrassment of their records or concern that their presidential nominee is being sued for running a scam for profit college. But what we do know is that hard-working Wisconsin borrowers who took on the personal responsibility to pay for their education have gotten a raw deal from this gang.”