MADISON, Wis. — If Republican presidential candidates are eager to take up substantive issues in their upcoming Wisconsin debate, they ought to engage on the elephant in the room for 43 million Americans, the $1.3 trillion student loan debt crisis. One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross noted that the Badger state, recently ranked third highest in the nation for percentage of 2014 graduates with student debt, would be a fitting site for the GOP candidates to engage on a critical economic issue that they to date have almost completely ignored.
“For more and more Wisconsinites, and millions of people across the country, student loan debt is a critical economic issue for them and their families,” commented Ross. “They played by the rules, worked hard to get their education and took on the personal responsibility to pay for it. But for too many, their student loan debt now stands between them and a fair shot at the middle class.”
Ross noted that student loan debt is the second largest form of consumer debt in America and is a significant drag on the Wisconsin and national economy. Original research by One Wisconsin Institute found student loan borrowers are significantly more likely to rent versus own their own home and drive a used versus new vehicle.
The major Democratic presidential candidates have all strongly called for college affordability reforms, including allowing borrowers to refinance their loans, just like you can with a mortgage.
Meanwhile in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker, whose disastrous 71-day campaign ended with him polling at a statistical zero percent, has overseen a policy agenda that has produced some of the highest rates of student loan debt in the nation – implementing massive cuts to state support for higher education and technical colleges, underfunding financial aid and leaving tens of thousands of eligible students without any help and imposing double digit tuition hikes on University of Wisconsin students.
“Student loan borrowers aren’t asking for a bailout, just to be treated fairly and to have the chance to buy a home, a new car or start a business. If these GOP candidates are serious about wanting to engage on serious issues, they’ll explain in detail just what they’d do to give 43 million Americans the fair shot at the middle class they’ve earned,” concluded Ross.