Assembly Dems Push For Return To 'Debt-Free' College

Bill Would Create Commission To Examine College Costs, Financial Aid

Written by Shawn Johnson, Wisconsin Public Radio

Assembly Democrats say Wisconsin should return to the days of "debt-free" college.
A proposal by Racine Rep. Cory Mason and other Democrats would create what they've dubbed a debt-free college commission to come up with a system where students can pay for college without taking out any loans.  Mason said it's in everyone's interest.
"We're not going back to an unskilled workforce where you graduate with a high school degree and you have your pick of factory jobs that are good middle-class jobs. Those are harder and harder to find," Mason said. "So if we want to compete for the future in the 21st century, we've got to make sure we're doing this, not only for our citizens, but for our economy and our companies who want to grow and flourish here."
While the plan is light on specifics, the commission would study college costs, financial aid and state support for universities.
Offering a loan-free college education in Wisconsin would likely require a significant increase in state funding, but Rep. Katrina Shankland, a Stevens Point Democrat, said it's hardly a new idea.
"This is how it used to be. This was the basic promise: you work hard, you play by the rules, you can work your way through college, whether full-time in the summer, part-time through the school year and be able to pay your tuition," she said. "That's no longer the case."
Shankland said continued Republican cuts to the University of Wisconsin System are partly to blame for the trend, though Republicans have also repeatedly frozen UW tuition.