MADISON, Wis. — One Wisconsin Now invited U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson to use his joint appearance with U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan later today at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery on the UW-Madison campus to finally acknowledge that the more-than $1 trillion in student loan debt is a crisis for borrowers and the economy. Unlike Pocan, who has spoken out about the student loan debt crisis, Johnson has remained silent, despite public research by One Wisconsin Institute showing growing debt is a drag on the state economy, particularly home ownership and new car purchasing.
One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross commented, “Sen. Johnson talks endlessly about the need to reduce the nebulous federal debt as a justification for ruthless austerity, but has been utterly silent on the trillion-dollar student loan debt crisis burdening Wisconsin students and families and dragging down our economy.”
In Wisconsin, 67% of graduates from four-year public and private colleges and universities leave with an average of over $26,000 in student loan debt.
Original research by the One Wisconsin Institute found individuals with bachelor degrees with student loan debt were making average monthly payments of $350 on loans with an average term of nearly 19 years. For those with two-year degrees, the situation was almost as bad, with loan debt lasting 17 years, a particularly troubling change given technical college education in Wisconsin was free until 1972.
The economic impacts of this crushing debt load are, according to the research, severe, reducing new car purchasing by over $200 million annually in Wisconsin and significantly suppressing home ownership rates. The research shows that nearly 86% of renters with incomes between $50,000 and $75,000 have student loan debt.
“If we want the state and the nation’s economic engines to roar as never before, solve the student loan debt crisis,” said Ross. “Our economy will continue to sputter until elected officials like Sen. Johnson admit there’s a crisis – and do something about it.”