(WORT) — Governor Scott Walker unveiled a new set of proposals this week that his party says will help make higher education more accessible and affordable. The legislative package includes measures to combat skyrocketing student loan debt, but some are questioning whether it goes far enough.
Student loan debt has reached record highs nationwide. Back in 2009, it surpassed credit card debt for the first time, and currently stands at $1.2 Trillion.
In Wisconsin, 70% of students graduate from college with some amount of debt, the fourth highest percentage in the nation. According to the Institute for College Access and Success, the average debt load of these students is about $29,000.
State Republicans and Democrats alike have recognized student loan debt is a serious problem.
At the Waukesha County Technical College on Monday, Walker announced what he called a “college affordability” legislative package that includes provisions to address soaring debt.
One of the proposals involves offering more tax credits for student loan interest payments. The GOP legislative package also includes a proposal to increase need-based grants for technical college students by $500,000 a year, as well as a proposal to allocate $450,000 in “emergency grants” for students experiencing financial duress.
Last June, State Democrats introduced their own proposal to deal with student loan debt through refinancing. The “Higher Ed. Lower Debt Bill” would create an authority to provide low interest loans to help individuals pay off outstanding debt. Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) says that proposal has been stalled in committee by GOP leadership at the Capitol.
While the demand for “free college for all” has gained some national traction, for the time being, Walker’s proposals have the best chance of passing the Republican-controlled legislature in Wisconsin.