MADISON, Wis. — Russ Feingold used his address to thousands of progressive activists at the 14th Annual Fighting Bob Fest Saturday to tout his unflinching support for a plan to allow the nation’s 43 million student loan borrowers the opportunity to refinance their student loans, just like they can with every other loan.
“Russ gets it that allowing student loan borrowers the chance to refinance their loans like you can a mortgage is critical for middle class Wisconsinites,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director. “Unfortunately, Sen. Ron Johnson has been the country’s leading voice against this common sense plan and helping at least 515,000 hardworking Wisconsinites with student loan debt.”
Feingold’s remarks, which drew a standing ovation from the crowd included comments, “Not solving this problem is nothing less than a denial of the American dream for the sons and daughters of many hardworking Americans.” He added, “We have an obligation to turn this around.”
Original research by One Wisconsin Institute found the $1.3 trillion student loan debt crisis has a significant, negative effect on borrowers and the Wisconsin economy. Borrowers reported average student loan debt payments of $388 per month over a term of 18 to 22 years and are significantly more likely to rent versus own their home and drive a used versus new vehicle than Wisconsinites without the burden of student loan debt.
A report released earlier this year by One Wisconsin Institute in association with the national think tank Demos shows how the regressive higher education policies in Wisconsin pursued by Gov. Scott Walker and Republican state legislative majorities have shifted costs onto consumers, increased student loan debt and decreased the affordability of higher education. The confluence of the these factors endangers the quality of Wisconsin’s institutions of higher learning, threatening the state’s economic competitiveness and the future of its young people.
“The student loan debt and college affordability crises are clear and present dangers to our state and national economy,” commented Ross. “Russ Feingold is standing up for Wisconsin’s student loan borrowers, while millionaire Sen. Ron Johnson stands in the way of reform and relief.”
Ross also spoke about student loan reform at Fighting Bob Fest, noting that every single Democrat in the state legislature has co-authored the state-based “Higher Ed, Lower Debt” refinancing bill. He also spoke of the multi-generational student loan debt crisis, pointing out that recently 155,000 seniors had their Social Security payments garnished because of student loan obligations.
One Wisconsin Now has a campaign underway to convince the Obama Administration to enact a moratorium on Social Security garnishment over student loans available at onewi.org/1iV6tdw.