Governor Scott Walker is proposing some help on student loan debt. At a media event in Pewaukee on Monday, the Republican governor unveiled a package of legislative proposals to address the issue.
- Deducting All Student Loan Interest – authored by Representative John Macco and Senator Howard Marklein, this legislation would eliminate any cap on the tax deduction for student loan interest, which would save student loan debt payers $5.2 million annually when it is fully phased in. This tax deduction would be the most generous of any state in the Midwest with an income tax and benefit roughly 32,000 Wisconsin taxpayers paying off student loans. This deduction also directly benefits middle class Wisconsinites with an average benefit of more than $200 annually for those making between $30,000 and $70,000;
- Increasing Wisconsin Grants for Technical Colleges – authored by Representative Dave Heaton and Senator Sheila Harsdorf, this legislation would increase needs-based Wisconsin Grants by $1 million for technical college students in the biennium or $500,000 annually. This would benefit over 1,000 students throughout the state;
- Creating Grants for Students in Emergency Financial Need – authored by Representative David Murphy and Senator Howard Marklein, this legislation would provide $130,000 to UW System colleges and $320,000 to technical colleges to provide emergency grants to students. This approach has been credited with increasing the likelihood a student finishes his or her degree in these unfortunate situations by increasing student retention;
- Increasing Internships – authored by Representative David Murphy and Senator Howard Marklein, these two pieces of legislation would enhance internships, creating more pathways to employment by funding two positions within the Office of Skills Development at the Department of Workforce Development (DWD), as well as additional UW System positions. These new positions would work with employers and institutions throughout the state to build and grow relationships between higher education institutions and employers, so students can gain job skills, which will assist in filling open positions and connecting our graduating students to employers in Wisconsin;
- Helping Students and Families to Make Informed Decisions – authored by Representative David Murphy and Senator Howard Marklein, this legislation would require all state institutions of higher education to provide financial literacy to their students within the first semester of their instruction. It would also require all institutions of higher education offering an associate’s degree or higher to annually mail cost, loan, and other financial information to students. This is modeled after an Indiana law that has been credited with reducing the amount of loans taken out by students.
“Our college affordability legislation will help students and families make informed decisions about choosing the higher education path that is right for their future dreams and for their budgets,” Walker said.
“The piecemeal that Governor Walker has laid out will leave the nearly one million student loan borrowers across the state of Wisconsin still starving for some kind of real relief,” said Scot Ross with the Madison-based liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now. “Allow them to be able to refinance their student loans, like you can a mortgage or an auto loan. There’s a plan to do that. Governor Walker has rejected that.”