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Burke best hope for Wisconsin students

Zach Madden and Phoenix Rice-Johnson

Student loan debt is one of the fastest growing threats to secondary education in Wisconsin. Massive debt loads prohibit young adults from investing in their futures early and even discourages the pursuit of a college education. An estimated 40 million Americans hold over $1.2 trillion of student debt. Sadly, Wisconsin ranks No. 10 in terms of the number of college students with debt; in addition, our state has fewer residents with degrees than the national average.

As I and many other Wisconsin students can tell you, working your way through college is not a viable option. Few are fortunate enough to have help from their parents, others have scholarships and grants, and some receive no assistance at all.

Student debt threatens our ability to transition smoothly post-graduation. Instead of investing money in economically stimulating ventures like cars and homes, student debt takes priority. Instead of getting a degree, many forgo education altogether. Instead of supporting Wisconsin’s economy, we support private lenders. We can’t stand idly by and watch as our state’s future leaders become consumed by their college debt, putting both personal and statewide economic success at risk.

This problem of economy and opportunity affects more than just students — it affects the prosperity of our state. The middle class is the bedrock of American society and culture; however, student debt is an obstacle to that way of life. Education is a right that all should have access to. Financial limitations and class background should not determine one’s ability to receive a degree.

Instead of lip service and empty rhetoric on reform, we need action and commitment. We need policies that advocate for us. We need a party as well as leaders dedicated to solutions and the success of the state and its students. We need answers, and those answers can be found with Mary Burke and the Democratic Party.

Mary Burke has innovative solutions to address the student loan debt crisis. Her vision for Wisconsin students includes several measures to lower debt, it’s an effort to help grow a stronger, and better educated workforce, making Wisconsin a more competitive economy.

Burke’s plan includes many of the same provisions as the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act (Assembly Bill 498 and Senate Bill 376). Her plan, a part of her “Invest for Success” jobs strategy, entails providing more state money to universities, allowing students to refinance loans at reduced rates and increasing education tax deductions from $6,943 to $10,424. In addition, Burke plans to provide students and parents with the necessary information to be smart loan consumers. As governor, Burke will help create a more educated workforce, increase consumer spending and spur small business creation in Wisconsin.

Burke is the only gubernatorial candidate in the country who has made student loan reform a central tenant of her campaign. Her vision is forward looking and in the same vein of the progressive tradition so many Wisconsinites proudly represent. To put it simply: Mary Burke gets it. Student loan debt is a danger to our economy and destroys the path to middle class for hundreds of thousands of people in our state.

The commonsense solutions proposed will never be a reality without the support of the students whom they help. No Republican lawmakers voted for the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act in the previous legislative session. The Democratic Party and Mary Burke are truly committed to easing our burden. This November, we need to rally behind Mary Burke and the Democratic Party, the only players in Wisconsin fighting for students and working to make college affordable again.

Zach Madden is a student at Edgewood College and is chairman of College Democrats of Wisconsin. Phoenix Rice-Johnson is a student at UW-Madison and vice chairman of College Democrats of Wisconsin.