By Rob Stetzer, The Chippewa Herald
EAU CLAIRE — College graduates should be cut a break while they try to cut down their enormous student loans, the assistant minority leader in the Wisconsin Assembly says.
Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) said in Eau Claire on Friday that students should be allowed to refinance their college loans and get better interest rates.
She said Wisconsin graduates average $28,000 of debt from student loans.
State Rep. Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire) said the majority of student loans are not eligible for refinancing.
“We have an entire generation of people who are hamstrung by this debt,” Shankland said.
Actually, there are more generations involved because many of the loans are co-signed by a students’ parents or grandparents.
When you graduate owning an average of $28,000, you have to look at how long it will take to pay it off.
There are studies that show the level of car and home purchases are dropping among college graduates with a high level of debt, she said.
Shankland also said it affects students who would like to start their own small business but can’t because of the money they owe.
She said Republican Gov. Scott Walker doesn’t address this issue in his proposed two-year state budget, but instead is directing people to go to a credit union website to apply for help.
For the first three of his budgets, she said the governor froze need-based financial aid for technical school students.
While Walker’s newest budget plan calls for increases in state funding for education, Shankland said she remains concerned about his track record in dealing with higher education.
Both Wachs and Shankland criticized Walker’s past funding for transportation projects.
“The state of the transportation system is abysmal,” Wachs said.
He said the Legislative Audit Bureau found, when the GOP took control of state government, 53.5 percent of state roads were termed as being in excellent shape. That has fallen to 41 percent.
“When you look at the roads, it’s like an x-ray about the way the GOP has treated the state in general,” Wachs said.