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Image by Shutterstock

Task force will look to reduce its drag on state and local economies

Gov. Tony Evers signed an executive order Wednesday creating a Governor’s Task Force on Student Debt.

The task force will be chaired by Kathy Blumenfeld, the secretary of the Wisconsin  Department of Financial Institutions. The purpose of the task force will be to assess student debt in Wisconsin and provide long-term strategies to reduce education-related debt, prevent abusive practices by loan companies, and improve financial literacy education. 

“For too many Wisconsinites additional education or job training is out of reach. We need to address college affordability and ensure that a great education doesn’t come at the cost of decades of crippling debt,” said Gov. Evers. “Student debt is preventing folks from buying a car, starting a business, saving for retirement, and starting a family, and that is ultimately holding back our state and our economy.”

One Wisconsin Now, a liberal advocacy group based in Madison, began researching the implications of student loan debt in 2012 and pushing the topic into the political arena shortly thereafter.  Last year, OWN estimated more than one million Wisconsinites are carrying a collective $24 billion in student loan debt.

According to the group, higher education debt has skyrocketed to over $1.6 trillion and directly impacts over 45 million people nationally. Wisconsin ranks in the top ten for the percentage of 2018 college graduates with student loan debt. Roughly $32,000 is the average amount of debt for these graduates, according to The Institute for College Access and Success.

“Borrowers know what the student loan debt crisis means to them and their families,” said One Wisconsin Now Deputy Director Mike Browne in a statement. “But the impact of the student debt crisis reaches far beyond just the borrowers, it’s stifling our entire state economy. Gov. Evers is right to be looking for ways to help.”