Democratic Senate candidate Russ Feingold helped some students move into their new apartment and talked about college affordability early Monday morning.
Feingold told reporters during the move-in affordable for students and families, which would reduce post-graduation loan debt. He told reporters d the average debt for those graduating from the University of Wisconsin is $28,000.
“I consider the issue of student loans and student debt to be one of the most important issues in the presidential race and in our race,” Feingold said.
Feingold, a former Wisconsin senator and UW alumnus himself, said the state of Wisconsin has greatly diminished the support given to tuition in comparison to when he was a student.
He said to help solve college affordability problems, there needs to be legislation like the bill U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., sponsored, which would allow students to refinance their student loans.
Feingold criticized his opponent, incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., stating that Johnson voted against the bill and does not support federal student loans.
“It’s very sad that Wisconsin’s senator, Senator Johnson, doesn’t believe that our students here on this campus and across the state should get the benefit of student loans,” Feingold said.
Refinancing bills has drawn criticism in the past from Republicans who argue refinancing doesn’t actually help students and is too costly for taxpayers.
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According to the most recent Marquette Law School Poll, Feingold is currently six points ahead of Johnson in Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race.
In addition to reducing interest rates, Feingold said he would like to see a new program created that could prevent students from paying huge amounts of tuition. He said funding would need to be from the state, universities, federal government and families who can afford to pay.
Feingold also pointed to this past weekend’s protests and violence in Milwaukee. He said lawmakers and citizens need to work together to reduce the violence and tension in those communities.
“We do have to be clear that there is a level of tension and suspicion in our communities that makes people feel uncomfortable and nervous about encounters with police officers that are justified,” Feingold said.
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The tension will not be reduced, Feingold said, until there is a change in the economic reality for families living in those areas. He also said there needs to be constant community dialogue between all parties, not just during incidents.
Feingold will face off with Johnson in the upcoming general election Nov. 8, 2016.