By Diana, The Pointer
State Senator Dave Hansen from Greenbay and State Representative Katrina Shankland from Stevens Point held a panel to discuss the Reaching Higher for Higher Education Legislative Package on Oct. 14 at the Dreyfus University Center Theatre. These legislators explained this bill, their reasons to work on it and how. Attendants had the opportunity to ask questions and make comments. The event was organized by the Stevens Point Academic Representation Council and was open to the general public.
During the meeting, a petition to sign the bill was passed and the general public had the choice to sign it.
Senator Hansen began the panel explaining the importance of college education. He said that his college tuition for his first semester was $150 and students could cover their expenses with no debt. Now college tuition is expensive and Wisconsin students graduate with an average debt of around $30,000, which can be difficult to pay back.
State Representative Shankland said, “UWSP is the rock of Central Wisconsin. It is important to have conversations about reinvesting.” She informed that there is a lack of funding for students. “After graduation, the college debt is holding back the economy; students cannot invest in buying a car, invest in a business, get married. It is important to make college more affordable and have more funds in Wisconsin.”
Shankland explained that students need to understand career options during and after college and that the more internships students do, the better. Shankland also said that there are opportunities for students and that these opportunities need to be funded. Hansen said, “The community believes in the university system.”
Both legislators explained that education should be affordable in Wisconsin and that students and educators are valued. Investing in financial aid and funding tuition freezes are necessary. Shankland said, “With several campuses like UW-Stevens Point facing significant budget deficits, the sustainability of our state’s economic engine is at risk.”
Some aspects included in the Reaching Higher for Higher Education Legislative Package includes full funding of the UW System tuition freeze by increasing funding for general program operations, and an end to the waitlist for need-based financial aid for the UW System and technical college students by increasing funding for grants.
Shankland explained that this legislative package is a bipartisan package and would like to have as many conversations on this topic as possible. Shankland said, “Funding higher education at all levels is good for the state, the workforce, economy, community members and society. I look forward to working with students, faculty, staff, campus leaders, and legislators to advance these initiatives to strengthen and sustain our universities which are integral to our communities across the state.”
When asked about how the panel went, Shankland said, “I think we have laid out our values and vision for the future of higher education in Wisconsin. I think it was a very positive and optimistic conversation about how we can work together about the needs to invest in higher education in Wisconsin.”
Nerissa Nelson, the Stevens Point Academic Representation Council informed, “The panel was informative and both legislators outlined the reason behind these bills and why we need to reinvest in the UW System and get Wisconsin back on track in being a leader in higher ed. I was especially interested in funding the tuition freeze and also creating a BlueRibbon Commission.”
When asked about how they decided to organize the panel, she said, “We wanted to bring attention to these bills as campus members who are interested in reinvesting in the UW System and who fully support these bills.”