Almost two decades, that's how long experts say on average it takes us to pay off our students loans. A new bill is designed to offer higher education debt relief to hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites.
Bill 376, also known as Higher Ed Lower Debt for Wisconsin is designed to help close to 750-thousand Wisconsinites with federal student loan debt. If approved, it would allow you to deduct your student loan payment from your state income tax, and give you an option of refinancing the interest rates
Experts say college tuition costs have doubled over the last 12 years.
The UW Eau Claire Financial Aid Office says the average loan debt for the 2011-12 graduating class was just shy of 24-thousand dollars.
Financial Aid Director Kathy Sahlhoff says 70 percent of UW Eau Claire students have a loan of some sort.
“That's high. We want to be aware of that. We want to do everything we can to reduce that,” she said. 40-million Americans hold over 1.2-trillion dollars in student loan debt nationally.
The bill's author, senator Dave Hansen, says student debt hurts the economy hampering car and home sales. The bill would help current borrowers by giving them an option to refinance their student loans to get lower interest rates, just like homeowners can refinance their mortgages.
“Combining that with being able to deduct some of those loans from their state income tax would be two positive things that would help people through school and in the repayment process,” said Sahlhoff.
UW Eau Claire junior Kaleigh Meek says she owes around 15-thousand dollar right now.
“It’s a high concern of mine, just because I already work full time now as a college students, just to cover some of the costs of living,” she said.
But critics of the bill say making it easier to pay off student debt will only encourage students to borrow more money.
Sahlhoff says it will give students confidence to borrow money to receive a degree.
“That's how it is our days; everybody needs an education, you have to have a degree for most jobs,” said UW Eau Claire Senior Tanner Herkert, who borrowed a sum of money for school.
“The state will come out ahead by having this educated populace,” added Sahlhoff.
The first hearing for the bill was held on Wednesday. The bill's author says if it passes Wisconsin will become the first state in the country to offer student loan refinancing, that could make the badger-state a warm climate for business in industries that require a bachelor’s or advanced degrees for employment.
To find more information on the bill visit the link on the side of this story.