Sen. Tammy Baldwin met with University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point students at a round-table event last Thursday to discuss the affordability of higher education and loan debt with the intent of bringing students’ concerns to Washington.
“Tuition has skyrocketed,” said Sen. Baldwin. “It would be ideal to see the work penalty eliminated and have college become more affordable for everyone, regardless of their background.”
Baldwin is a co-sponsor of the Bank on Students Act, which would allow those with outstanding student loan debt to refinance at the lower interest rates currently offered to new borrowers. The bill was obstructed in June and Baldwin wants the Senate to vote on it again.
According to the Department of Education, 25 million people would benefit from this legislation.
Many students that attended the discussion believe that financial illiteracy is one of the major problems affecting student borrowers.
“I have not paid that much attention to how much my total debt is and I am not exactly sure how it is calculated,” said junior English education major Andre White.
Students think that if there had been more opportunities for them to learn about the workings of financial aid and loan debt in high school, borrowing money in college would have gone smoother.
“My scholarships actually equal out to be more than my tuition, so I had to start paying that money back out of pocket,” said junior political science major Rika Calvin. “It is a bittersweet feeling, but I wish I had known about this override status.”
Baldwin is also introducing the Working Student Act, which would increase the amount working students can earn without decreasing their need-based financial aid offerings.
Sometimes, students simply cannot afford to accept unpaid internships and job shadowing, despite the valuable experience they provide. Many need more summer income to support themselves during the academic year.
“I have to work summer jobs out of the field I am going into so I can make more money, but then I do not always gain the experience I need,” said senior psychology major Courtney Gonnering. “In the process, I make enough so that I am not eligible for grants.”
Baldwin’s main objective is to see higher education be made more affordable for everyone so they have the opportunity to set themselves up for a successful career and earn a higher wage. In turn, that higher wage will allow them to buy homes, automobiles and start businesses to strengthen the economy.