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Wisconsin Student Loan Debt at Staggering Level

UW-Oshkosh leads the state in the amount of student loan debt at graduation. (mj0007/
UW-Oshkosh leads the state in the amount of student loan debt at graduation. (mj0007/
December 27, 2016

MADISON, Wis. – While the past year has brought some discussion among political leaders and candidates about the level of student-loan debt in Wisconsin, nothing substantive has been done to address the growing crisis. Democrats in the state Legislature have introduced bills in each of the last several sessions that would allow students to refinance their student loans, such as a mortgage or car loan, but the legislation has gone nowhere.

Analiese Eicher, the program director of the advocacy group, One Wisconsin Now, said the numbers for Wisconsin are staggering.

"There are about 800,000 Wisconsinites who hold over $19 billion in federal student loan debt, and that's not including private loans, that is just federal student loan debt," she explained.

Figures from The Institute for College Access and Success indicate that about 70 percent of Wisconsin college grads leave school with student loan debt bills to pay. Nationally, levels of student loan debt have risen in the past year, and Wisconsin mirrors that trend. Wisconsin remains in the top five states nationally for percentage of college grads with student loan debt.

In the Badger state, the average debt of graduates from four-year public universities is $29,460. Eicher said the latest figures revealed a surprise about which university's graduates carry the most debt.

"One thing that really stood out to us at One Wisconsin Institute was the amount of debt that graduates from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh have," she said. "They're averaging over $33,000 in debt when they graduate."

Eicher said that huge debt load represents money that college grads can't spend on buying houses, appliances, cars and other items that would help stimulate the economy. She said it also hampers college grads in trying to save for retirement, when they're paying hundreds of dollars a month in student loan debt.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI