163,427. 24,627. 9.
That’s the number of Wisconsin students with loans in the upcoming school year (163,427), the average student debt for Wisconsin students ($24,627), and Wisconsin’s ranking of students graduating with student debt (9).
But there are other numbers that matter just as much – 6.8 and 128,435,544.
On July 1, unless Congress acts immediately, interest rates for students will double to 6.8%, increasing interest payments by Wisconsin students at the new rate from just one year of borrowing to $128,435,544.
These sobering numbers are the latest evidence of Congressman Paul Ryan’s failure to ensure affordable access to higher education for students in Wisconsin and around our country.
In addition to pushing for student loan interest rates to double on July 1, Congressman Ryan authored a budget that reduces both the number of Pell Grants available to students as well as the loan amount itself. While House Democrats offered a solution by keeping interest rates at 3.4% by closing loopholes used exclusively by Big Oil, Paul Ryan and House Republicans refused, once again putting their major campaign contributors ahead of American families.
According to his recently released financial disclosure statements, while Congressman Ryan’s plans to double the interest rates from 3.4% to 6.8%, two of his own children will be spared. The statements show that Congressman Ryan has invested in educational savings accounts for two of his three children, worth up to $350,000. That’s enough to pay undergraduate tuition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for 30 years. How many other Wisconsin families can do that?
At a town hall event last year, Congressman Ryan told a district student that he should work three jobs while attending school and take out private loans to go to college. Congressman Ryan showed once again that he simply doesn’t understand, or worse – doesn’t care about – what families here in Wisconsin are facing.
The only way many students, myself included, afford a higher education is through programs like Pell Grants and Stafford Loans. I understand intimately how important these programs are – they were the only way I was able to get an education, go on to own two small businesses and live my version of the American Dream.
I grew up in a poor family and while my mother worked hard to keep the roof over our heads, sometimes it wasn’t enough. I knew that I wanted to be my own boss and that I needed an education to do that. Because our government gave me a hand up – not a hand out – I was able to go on and start two small businesses. Running these companies gave me real-life budgeting experience, unlike Congressman Ryan. I had to write responsible budgets that balanced benefits and the bottom-line. I took care of my employees, they took care of me and together we took care of our customers.
If we allow Congressman Ryan to continue to make it more difficult for young people to get a higher education he will stall our economic recovery as fewer future small business owners and entrepreneurs will be able to live their version of the dream like I did.