The Trillion-Dollar Student Loan Debt Crisis: A Tale of Two Senators

Prospects for Tackling Economic Crisis Face 'The Best of Times, the Worst of Times' With Views of Wisconsin's U.S. Senators

MADISON, Wis. — It’s the best of times and the worst of times for tackling the trillion dollar student loan debt crisis with the views of Wisconsin’s two U.S. Senators, Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson, according to One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross.

“The trillion dollar student loan debt crisis is a clear and present danger to our economy, and it demands immediate attention from our policymakers. But, where Sen. Baldwin wants to stop skyrocketing student loan debt, Sen. Johnson seems hell bent on turning the one trillion dollar crisis into a two trillion dollar catastrophe,” commented Ross.

Incredibly, U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, in response to a question on the student loan debt crisis at a forum in Eau Claire, declared that he thinks more private-for profit colleges are a possible solution. Unfortunately for Johnson, the facts are not on his side. A report resulting from a two-year U.S. Senate committee investigation of 30 companies operating in the for-profit college industry found they were significantly more expensive, had lower graduation and job placement rates and left students in significantly more debt and more likely to default on that debt.

Meanwhile, Senator Baldwin has spoken out strongly in favor of immediate Congressional action to prevent federal student loan interest rates from doubling on July 1. Previously, as U.S. Representative for Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District, Baldwin supported President Obama’s 2011 actions to help recent graduates manage their student loan debt and measures reauthorizing the Higher Education Act and doubling the maximum number of Pell Grants.

Original research conducted by the One Wisconsin Institute found that student loan debt’s impact is not confined to students and their families, but is a significant drag on the entire Wisconsin state economy with:

  • Graduates with Bachelor’s degrees reporting making average monthly payments of $350 for an average term of 18.7 years;
  • Economy-wide detrimental impacts of this debt including over $200 million in lost new auto sales every year; and
  • Significantly lower rates of home purchasing and ownership among graduates earning solid middle class incomes but saddled with student loan debt.

Ross concluded, “The fact that Sen. Johnson thinks more for-profit colleges, that have been shown to leave disturbing rates of students without degrees or jobs and deeper in debt, are the answer shows just how far we have to go in educating policymakers about the trillion dollar debt crisis. Thankfully, Senators like Tammy Baldwin offer hope that some people get it.”

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