In a stern opinion piece for The Star, Wisconsin Assembly Rep. Gary Hebl attacked Gov. Scott Walker’s record on education following his State of the State address. Hebl claims that Walker’s actions on education have not matched his words with the state’s education system still reeling from recent budget cuts. Walker pledged a budget increase along with a tuition freeze as part of College Affordability package he plans on rolling out in 2017. While his plan introduces measures to reduce college costs and increase student assistance, critics complain it doesn’t go far enough considering the deep budget cuts in recent years.
Budgets Cut While Student Debt Mounts
Hebl points to the $250 million Walker stripped from the University of Wisconsin System budget last year and the direct impact it is having on the university’s standing in the country. At the same time, Wisconsin has cracked the top five states with the highest percentage of graduates carrying student loan debt. Presently, there are nearly 825,000 student borrowers in Wisconsin carrying more than $19 billion in student loan debt.
Hebl complains that, while Wisconsin residents ache for debt relief, the best that Gov. Walker can offer is refinancing program through the UW Credit Union. Until recently, the UW Credit Union would only work with UW graduates. Through the efforts of Gov. Walker, the credit union now extends its services to any Wisconsin resident carrying student loan debt. However, many students can’t qualify for private refinancing. Hebl and other state legislators have pressed for a state-sponsored solution that could be available to more students.
Walker Introduces New Measures
Among the measures Walker has introduced is a tuition cut for all in-state UW undergraduates. This comes after a four-year tuition freeze mandated by Walker in 2012. The tuition freeze, and now tuition cut, are efforts by Gov. Walker to keep the cost of higher education affordable, which would keep the need for student loans down. With the state’s budget deficit erased, Walker says the state is in a better position to pay for the tuition cut.
While Walker touts his actions over the past five years as having reduced waste and enhanced the ability of educators to plan and spend money more productively, Hebl and other Democratic legislators look upon them as being detrimental to the quality of education.
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