Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has been criticized for his handling of the student loan debt problem in his state.

Yesterday, a poll of Wisconsin voters that was commissioned by the One Wisconsin Institute found that nearly two-thirds of poll participants would favor a student loan refinancing program similar to the process for refinancing mortgages.

The poll asked 613 Wisconsin voters if they would support a state-based program that would allow Wisconsin’s one million student debtors to refinance their student loan debt, similar to how it is done for consumers with home mortgage loans. 64 percent of the respondents said they would support such a program; only 23 percent would oppose it. Further, 13 percent of Wisconsin voters said that they were unsure.

Interestingly, the majority of Wisconsin voters are not entirely up-to-speed when it comes to understanding the student loan industry. Another question in the poll asked respondents if they were aware of the fact that federal student loans cannot be refinanced with the federal government. The majority of poll participants, 57 percent, admitted that they were not aware of this law, while only 43 percent said they did have knowledge of the policy.

Republican Scott Walker is the current governor of the state of Wisconsin. The plurality of respondents to One Wisconsin Institute’s poll said they disapprove of Walker’s handling of the student loan debt issue. 43 percent of respondents disapproved. 33 percent approved of Walker’s actions, and 24 percent were not sure.

In general, 46 percent of Wisconsinites disapprove of Governor Walker’s job performance, while 44 percent approve and 9 percent have not made up their mind.

One Wisconsin Institute’s poll informed participants that Scott Walker said the solution to student loan debt is for borrowers to call a bank or credit union to have their educational loans privately refinanced. However, Walker himself disclosed having over $100,000 in student loan with an interest rate above 7 percent, so clearly, he is not following his own advice. 47 percent of respondents said this makes them less likely to trust Governor Walker’s handling of the student debt issue. Meanwhile, 32 percent said it made no difference, 16 percent stated it made them more likely to trust him, and 6 percent were not sure.

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Further, 56 percent of Wisconsin voters showed support for the state proposal to allow Wisconsin taxpayers to deduct some of their student loan payments from their state income tax. 31 percent of respondents were opposed to this initiative, while 13 percent were unsure.

It is worth noting that 82 percent of the 613 Wisconsin voters admitted that neither them nor anyone in their house are repaying a student loan either currently or in the last five years. The remaining 18 percent are currently involved in repaying student loans.

Of those that are either repaying student loans or have someone in their house that is, 54 percent said the debt came from a 4-year college degree, while 25 percent said the educational debt derives from a postgraduate degree. The remaining 21 percent said the debt stems from a technical college or a two-year training program.

Analiese Eicher, the Program Director for the One Wisconsin Institute, issued the following statement: “Student loan borrowers did the right thing. They worked hard to get their education, and they took on the personal responsibility to pay for it. And our poll shows a strong majority in Wisconsin support reforms to help make sure these borrowers are being treated fairly by a system that, as of today, does not do so.”

One Wisconsin Institute’s poll surveyed 613 Wisconsin voters and was conducted by Public Policy Polling between September 5, 2017 and September 6, 2017.

Interestingly, The Student Loan Report covered some of the ideas that were discussed in the aforementioned poll in the past. In February, Wisconsin State Representative Cory Mason reintroduced legislation that would enable student loan borrowers to refinance their educational debt at a lower rate, in addition to deducting payments from their income tax returns. A similar bill was rejected by Wisconsin legislators in 203 and 2015. Holding true to form, Mason’s legislative proposal was again rejected by state lawmakers. 

Image Copyright © Gage Skidmore