Gov. Scott Walker responded to Democratic criticism Tuesday regarding his college affordability package by saying Democrats are responsible for making tuition high in the first place.

“Most of the people who made that criticism were responsible for the 118 percent increase in tuition before our freeze, and tuition went up an average of eight percent a year,” Walker told The Badger Herald. “So they’re largely responsible for why so many people have large student loan debt.”

At the College Republicans meeting on campus Walker discussed higher education, job growth successes and the upcoming 2016 elections.

Walker pointed to the tuition freeze as a tangible success during his time as governor.

“We froze tuition for the first time in our state’s history, four years in a row,” he said.

The tuition freeze has saved students an average of $6,311 per year, according to a statement from Walker. His college affordability package will now help students to start to chip away at that debt, he said. 

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Refinancing won’t help students in the long run, because it doesn’t deal with the high cost of tuition, and lowering interest rates on loans doesn’t make a big enough difference, Walker said.

He also pointed to the low unemployment rate as a success of his administration. The unemployment rate is down to a little more than 4 percent, the lowest it’s been since March of 2001, Walker said. 

Pointing to the Department of Labor numbers, Walker said the number of people working in the state in 2015 was the highest it’s been in 20 years, and Wisconsin is in the top ten states for highest employment. The number one issue for employers in the state is finding people to fill their work force, he said.

“They’ve got jobs, but they don’t have people to fill the jobs,” Walker said.

Walker said students have incredible opportunities in the state to find a career in the area that they study.

Walker also encouraged UW students to vote for Ron Johnson in the upcoming Senate election.

In the 2014 gubernatorial election, Walker said, for voters ages 18 to 24, 49 percent voted for Mary Burke and 48 percent voted for him. He said this kind of conservative support from college aged voters was “unheard of” and should continue in this year’s upcoming elections.

Wisconsin is one of 10 or 12 states that will determine the presidential election, Walker said, and students have the opportunity to “make a big difference” for the U.S.

“We want to move things forward, but we don’t think the government should be the ones doing it,” Walker said. “We believe in the individual.”