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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Feingold, Sen. Warren discuss college affordability

Politicians point to cloudy solutions, experts say
Emily Hamer

Russ Feingold, a 2016 senatorial candidate, and United States Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, promised to dedicate themselves to lowering higher education costs at a University of Wisconsin event Saturday, Sept. 26, but one critic said their approach is “misleading.”

Outlining their specific plans to make college more affordable, Feingold and Warren pointed to the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, which Congress failed to pass. The bill would have increased taxes on billionaires in order to allow students to refinance their student loans, Warren said at the event.

Noel Radomski, director of the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education said it is misleading for Democrats and Republicans to say allowing students to refinance their loans would solve student debt. The problem is far more nuanced, he said.


There was no way a bill to allow students to refinance their loans would ever make it through the US Senate or House of Representatives, Radomski said, and even if it did, it wouldn’t really help UW students.

Interest rates are a very minimal cost, he said. Decreasing them might help, but it wouldn’t make much of a difference.

“The real problem with student loan defaults isn’t at UW-Madison,” Radomski said. “It’s at the technical colleges and the two-year colleges.”

Radomski said some students who attend technical schools are more likely to default on their loans because they aren’t getting financial support from their families and don’t end up with well-paying jobs. Those students, he said, default on their loans and are then stuck.

Warren said she understands the struggles of college students who are being crushed by student loan debt and said she is committed to helping lower higher education costs.

“Every student needs a debt-free option to get a college diploma,” Warren said.

Radomski said after the $250 million dollar budget cuts to the UW System, Wisconsin was the second worst state in cutting funding for higher education in the last two years.

Warren said the U.S. government is capitalizing off student debt, and the federal government made $66 billion in student loan profits from 2006 to 2012.

Warren said Feingold is the kind of senator who will care about college students and working class Americans, not billionaires.

“The people will decide who the senator for Wisconsin is going to be,” Warren said. “And that’s going to be someone who won’t be there just for millionaires, … it will be someone who will stand up and fight for the people of Wisconsin, and that is Russ Feingold.”

Emily Colo, spokesperson from the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, a UW laboratory researching college affordability, said one of the only ways for students to get out of poverty is to get a college education, and they’re unable to do that if college is too expensive at four-year institutions.

Radomski said the major cause of student loan increases is tied to the state’s decrease in funding for higher education. Even though UW currently has an in-state tuition freeze, Radomski said there will likely be further reductions to the UW System. He expects the tuition freeze will go away in fall of 2017.

Radomski said a lack of funding for the UW System could lead to more expensive student loans and make students more likely to default.

Radomski said he thinks the best way for legislators to solve the student debt problem is to issue a “Maintenance of Effort” policy for higher education. The policy, he said, would take away federal funding from states if they make cuts on higher education.

At an event earlier this month at Ian’s Pizza, where he met with students to discuss college affordability issues, Feingold called for a federally-funded program to provide states with federal dollars to fund their universities.

Colo said other measures legislators could take to make college more affordable would be increasing funding for the federal pell grant, or making the first two years of college free, or debt free.

Feingold’s last UW visit was in early September, where he talked to students about college affordability. So far, he is the only declared Democratic candidate for US Senate in Wisconsin.

Feingold talks debt, loans with students over pizza

This story has been updated to clarify Feingold’s stance on college affordability.

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