Rep. Cory Mason is urging his Republican colleagues to take up his student loan debt reduction bill after both the Assembly and Senate voted earlier this session to not take action.
In a written statement released Thursday, Mason, D-Racine, reiterated the testimony of several Wisconsin residents who related how they are burdened by student loan debt. More than 750,000 state residents carry federal student loan debt.
“At recent public hearings on this bill, we heard story after story from Wisconsin residents whose financial decisions – and even decisions about when or whether to marry and have children – are being driven by staggering amounts of student loan debt,” he said in the statement.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Burlington, believes the answer lies more in lowering tuition to make college more affordable.
“The Speaker has made it a priority to make college less expensive for students in Wisconsin by passing a two-year tuition freeze at UW System schools,” said Kit Beyer, spokesperson for Vos. “The proposal that is being brought forward by Rep. Mason would make the state take on additional debt, which is not good for Wisconsin.”
In part, Mason’s bill would:
- Allow student loan borrowers to refinance their loans at lower rates;
- Deduct student loan payments from income tax; and
- Makes sure that future borrowers are fully informed about rates and lenders.According to Mason’s statement, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates state student loan borrowers could save up to $531 a year if the bill passes.
Mason chastised Gov. Scott Walker and state Republicans for not taking up the bill, calling it unacceptable.
“It is unacceptable for Wisconsin’s Legislators and Governor to turn their backs on Wisconsin’s student loan borrowers,” he concluded. “The need for the commonsense, practical solutions in the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Bill could not be clearer.”
Rep. Tom Weatherston, R-Caledonia, also supports lowering college tuition and says Mason’s idea would create an unsupported new borrowing system that essentially buys Federal student loan debt from residents and takes on the risk of whether or not those loans get repaid.
“On the surface this is a great idea … (but) Rep. Mason is really saying is that we the should start a new State agency, have them borrow money unsecured on the open market, and then loan it to students in the form of paying their Federally backed loans and the State of Wisconsin (tax payers) take on the risk of non-repayment,” he wrote in an email to Racine County Eye. “The real issue with student loan debt is the rising cost of college, which is why I voted to freeze UW tuition prices for the next two years.”