According to a recent survey, the cost of a college education is adding pressure to Wisconsin’s economy.
A study by the Institute for One Wisconsin pointed to student loan debt as harmful to the economy.
The Institute for One Wisconsin conducted a survey of 2,700 state residents that showed over one-third of individuals with bachelors or advanced degrees have outstanding student loan payments.
Scot Ross, IOW executive director, said the study found that across all income levels and age groups, individuals with a student loan debt are two-thirds more likely to buy a used car as opposed to a new car and two-thirds more likely to rent instead of own a home.
“Home ownership and having a nice car were symbols of success, and now, they are being denied due to student loan debt,” Ross said.
Ross attributed the negative trends in student debt to legislative changes made in the late 1990s.
Ross said regulations that were changed in the mid- to late-1990s took away consumer protections for borrowing and encouraged privatization and consolidation of loans to make them longer term – which has resulted in an explosion of student loan debt.
According to Ross, student loan debt has gone from $200 billion in 2000 to $1 trillion in 2011.
“Now we have more student loan debt in America than credit card debt,” Ross said.
Ross said on average individuals with an undergraduate degree pay $350 a month and others with graduate or professional degrees pay $448 in student loan debts. He said the average length of paying off student loan debts span 19 years for undergraduates and over 22 years for those with graduate or professional degrees.
A statement regarding the study released by the IOW said after the 1996 Student Loan Marketing Association Reorganization Act favored student loans over government loans, the ability to consolidate privatized loans extended the payment period and amount paid over time.
The statement said due to student loan payments, new vehicle spending in Wisconsin may be reduced by up to $201.8 million annually.
Also cited was a relationship between student loan payments and renting a home. It said 85.6 percent of renters with household incomes of $50,000 to $75,000 have student loan debt.
Susan Fischer, University of Wisconsin Financial Director within the UW System, said student loan debts are not a sudden problem, but rather a slow, building one.
“Students need to realize what kind of debt they are going to have when they get out of school,” Fischer said.
Fischer said taking out student loans is like using a credit card, and students should be more responsible and proactive in order to realize the terms they have accepted.
Fischer said at UW, the students who accumulate the highest debt-load the quickest are those who stay for more than four years.
Fischer said one-on-one financial advising would be ideal, but is not possible because there are about 17,000 UW students who take out student loans and about 10 advisors working in that advising area.