Monday, October 20, 2014

For a real conversation on student debt, Mary Burke is the best choice

A tuition freeze is nice, but Walker won’t address student debt problem

On the campaign trail for governor, we often hear so much from candidates that what they really are saying to us doesn’t get the proper attention it deserves. The subject of college loan student debt is one of those issues.

Gov. Scott Walker talks a big game about his record on student loans. He frequently cites the fact that he put into place a tuition freeze across the UW system (although he neglects to point out in his first budget there was an 11 percent tuition hike.

While a freeze is helpful, it doesn’t fix the problem. It’s like turning off the faucet when you have a clogged up sink. Sure, there’s less water in the basin, but you’ve still got a mess to deal with in the pipes.

Tuition freezes are the first step towards fixing the bigger problems associated with the debt crisis. What Walker’s plan for student debt lacks, however, is the next step: finding a way to lower the burden on Wisconsin students so that they won’t be saddled with decades of debt after they graduate.

So who among the gubernatorial candidates is leading the call for student debt reform? Why, Democrat Mary Burke, of course!
The UW tuition freeze was a step in the right direction, but we need to do more to make college affordable for students, including bringing down the cost. That's why I support a plan to refinance student loan debt and would allow middle-class families to deduct more in tuition and fees associated with attending college on their taxes as a way to lessen dependence on costly student loans.
Burke described the tuition freeze as the best policy to be enacted during Walker’s tenure. Yet more needs to be done -- a tuition freeze is a stopgap measure, but it doesn’t make things easier for students in the long-run.

What’s Walker’s plan to help students? Another tuition freeze. Again, that’s a good first step...but it’s not a very effective second or third step. Unless something else is done, what good does a freeze do? Students are still paying huge bills, and the freeze itself doesn’t address that.

Let’s allow students the chance to refinance their debt. Let’s create more tax deductions for education. And let’s have an open conversation about how to really attack student debt, and how to make college more affordable to every Wisconsin family.

We’ll get that conversation with Mary Burke as governor. With Scott Walker...not so much.

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