In the wake of the government shutdown, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan met with University of Wisconsin student government leaders Monday to talk about a new student loan legislation package hitting Capitol Hill.
Pocan joined the Associated Student of Madison’s Legislative Affairs Committee to speak about a bill he authored that would allow students to refinance their loans.
“There aren’t just a lot of people who are getting loans now, but when you graduate, you’re left with a high interest rate and there’s really no way to finance it,” Pocan said. “It’s a bill we put out there that’s just real simple, to refinance student loans just like you would a car, your home, or anything else.”
According to the New York Federal Reserve, the average student loan debt for the class of 2011 in Wisconsin is more than $26,000. More than 67 percent of students graduated with debt.
Pocan said his bill is currently being taken up by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce while he works on to garner support for the measure among his constituents.
“We don’t see it as a partisan issue,” Pocan said. “Right now it’s predominantly [supported by] Democrats, but that’s what usually happens when you first put something out.”
In an email to The Badger Herald, Charlie Hoffman, chair of the UW College Republicans, said President Barack Obama has failed to come to the aid of the 1 in 3 college graduates who are underemployed.
Hoffmann said creating jobs for new graduates should be a priority.
“As students, we support any kind of attempt to lower the financial burden that is placed upon students who are trying to further their education, and the best thing the politicians in Washington can do to help these students is to create an economy where students are able to get jobs that will pay for the degrees they have acquired,” Hoffman said.
Morgan Rae, ASM Legislative Affairs chair, said ASM will continue the discussion of student loan debt reform at next week’s meeting, adding that she is very happy with the attention Congress has been giving to the issue.
“It’s really great that Congress is focusing on making sure college is affordable for all of us,” Rae said.
In addition to student loan debt reform, Pocan said he hopes Congress will be able to produce legislation concerning immigration reform and a constitutional amendment ensuring the right to vote.
Pocan said he is unsure of how many of these issues Congress will be able to address in upcoming sessions, adding he blames Tea Party Republicans in the House for the “abysmal failure” of the past month and the “ideological kamikaze mission” that was the federal shutdown.
However, he also said he has hope Congress will be able to move forward, with much credit due to former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
“[Pelosi] is absolutely amazing,” Pocan said. “It was because of her that we reopened government because she galvanized our caucus like no one else had.”