Op Ed

Gov. Walker Fails To Act On Student Debt Crisis

The average student debt for Wisconsin’s class of 2016 graduates is over $30,000.

By - Sep 25th, 2017 02:10 pm
Governor Scott Walker. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Governor Scott Walker. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A new national study finds the average student debt burden for Wisconsin’s class of 2016 graduates now tops $30,000 and we remain in the top ten of states for the percentage of college graduates with debt. Over two-thirds of the class of 2016 left college with more than just a diploma, they also walked out the door with big debts.

Yet when concocting the 2017 state budget, in a stunning display of misplaced priorities and failed policies, Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislative majorities rejected efforts to include the provisions of the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act, that would help state borrowers refinance student loans at lower interest rates, just like you can with a mortgage, in the two year state spending plan.

The impact of student debt in Wisconsin and nationally is devastating, not just on borrowers but across the economy. Research conducted in state by One Wisconsin Institute found student loan borrowers were significantly more likely to rent versus own their home and to drive a used versus new vehicle. National research has confirmed the Wisconsin results and also found student debt is not just preventing major consumer purchases, but also preventing graduates from saving for retirement or their own children’s education.

Another recent study found that student debt is a crisis not just with recent graduates, but with older Americans. The fastest growing age segment of consumers with student debt are those age 60-plus and the average amount of debt owed by these older borrowers is skyrocketing. Unsurprisingly, this debt is presenting significant challenges to the finances of Americans as they prepare to retire after a lifetime of working.

But according to a recent newspaper report, when his own Council on Workforce Investment urged action to provide student debt relief to retain and lure a highly educated workforce to Wisconsin, the Walker administration deemed it, “unreachable.”

Think about this for a minute:

Gov. Walker and the GOP legislative majority, who as part of the state budget, enacted into law a provision spending $4 million of our tax dollars to upgrade the runways at a small central Wisconsin airport to accommodate corporate jet traffic bringing golfers to an exclusive resort developed by a major donor to Gov. Walker and the state GOP;

And finalized a bill this week to move forward with the largest ever state subsidy for a foreign corporation, putting Wisconsin taxpayers on the hook for $3 billion for Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn;

Have declared policies to retain college educated workers with student debt relief as “unreachable” and have repeatedly refused to vote on common sense solutions like allowing borrowers to refinance their student loans, just like you can with a mortgage.

Even if Walker and the Republicans are not interested in helping because it is good policy, they should consider the politics — allowing borrowers to refinance is broadly supported by registered voters, according to a recent poll.

Student loan borrowers worked hard to get their education and took on the personal responsibility to pay for it. They aren’t asking for a bailout. But they ought be treated fairly by a system that, as of today, decidedly does not.

As another state budget cycle concludes, solutions for student loan debt remain unrealized, not because they are unreachable, but because Gov. Walker and the Republicans aren’t listening and aren’t trying.

Analiese Eicher is the Program Director at One Wisconsin Now and a founding member of the national Higher Ed, Not Debt coalition.

Categories: Education, Op-Ed, Politics

6 thoughts on “Op Ed: Gov. Walker Fails To Act On Student Debt Crisis”

  1. Jason Troll says:

    Note to college students, when you sign that dotted line that states your borrowing money for college that is your responsibility. It is not the state governors job to watch over a federal program. What Scott Walker has done for you as governor has been to freeze out of control college tuition for the last six years. Many of your parents that had the opportunity to go college worked jobs to ease the burden of debt. You may want to consider this.

  2. Kevin says:

    In retrospect, I, like most student borrowers, didn’t realize the full cost of a student loans when I was attending university from 2010 to 2014. Once I became more fiscally aware during my Junior year, I realized I could get the same degree and a similar “college experience” at UW-Parkside or La Crosse for a fraction of the cost. In the end, I graduated from my original university with $65,000 in student loan debt. (Yes, this was tuition after grants and scholarships were applied. I lived at home all 4 years.)

    I think it’s totally acceptable to pursue your passion, but at what cost? Hypothetically, does it make sense to pay $34,000 per year (on average) in tuition to pursue a bachelors degree in Graphic Design if the median income for a graphic designer is $46,900? Realistically, it would take someone a minimum 3 years to aggressively pay back the $136,000 in student loan debt. Does that sound sustainable? No. Does attending a tech school to pursue graphic Design make sense? Yes.

    My point is that students and parents are borrowing for a degree/career that might not support the debt they take on. I recognize most people cannot afford college tuition, but the Government is irresponsibly handing out predatory loans to clueless students and their parents. On top of this, the Government is profiting off our students by charging absurd interest rates.

  3. RAFE says:

    I have been saying for years that the higher education system in this country is the biggest scam going around. I personally look for more hands on experience in my industry than I do for someone with a couple of letters after their name.

    Many of these useless degrees are good for nothing more than becoming a teacher in that same field.

  4. Vincent Hanna says:

    Yes we clearly don’t need higher education. It’s a scam and serves no purpose anymore. You can’t find anyone in America who is actually using their college degree. These anecdotes are rock-solid proof. It’s just liberals looking to make a buck and turn kids into snowflakes. That’s literally all college is these days. We need more RAFE’s, salt-of-the-earth types who work with their hands and know so much about the real world. RAFE doesn’t need someone to tell him what’s what. He just knows.

  5. Vincent Hanna says:

    People like this are the problem, as RAFE knows, with their facts and statistics and evidence and all that stuff that’s really just liberal bias. http://www.jsonline.com/story/opinion/contributors/2017/09/24/wegenke-four-year-degrees-still-route-success/682491001/

  6. RAFE says:

    Let me guess, you’re some sort of teacher? Perhaps Middle Eastern Women’s studies? Or maybe something in the Theater Arts.

    I did say many, not all degrees.

    The oozing pomposity in most of your comments suggests to me that you are some sort of educrat.
    ………with many letters after your name.

    (I do hope that you are well aware that that only impresses other people with many letters after their names)

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