A legislative package drafted by Republican lawmakers that would remove the cap on the amount of student loan interest borrowers can deduct from Wisconsin income taxes has passed through the state Assembly.
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Wisconsin State Capitol[/caption]
The package includes six bills that would increase the number of state grants available to technical colleges, boost internship programs within the University of Wisconsin system and allow the full deduction of student loan interest on state income taxes. The bills will now be reviewed by the state Senate.
Gov. Scott Walker outlined the package in his State of the State
address in January.
“The Assembly has taken a big step forward in helping make college more affordable and transparent for Wisconsin students and families,” Walker said in a statement released Wednesday morning. “We encourage the Senate to pass these important reforms to benefit Wisconsin citizens.”
Walker said the bills will build off a four-year tuition freeze for colleges in the UW system that began in the 2013-2014 school year and will continue through 2016-2017.
Wisconsin has the third-highest percentage of college students carrying student loan debt in the nation, according to an annual report from the Institute of College Access & Success
. The report found 70 percent of students at public colleges and universities carry an average of $28,810 in student loan debt.
One Wisconsin Now
, a liberal advocacy group, released a statement on Tuesday condemning state lawmakers who vote in favor of passing the package, saying the measures do not go far enough to address student loan debt.
The group pushed for more extensive reforms that would expand state income tax deductions by allowing borrowers to deduct student loan payments. The group also pushed for a bill allowing students to refinance their loans to reduce interest and lower monthly payments.
Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, said the GOP's college affordability package falls short of real change and accused Republican lawmakers of introducing superficial solutions to gain political capital.
"The contempt for hard working student loan borrowers on display by the legislators behind this bait and switch is appalling,” Ross said in a statement released Tuesday. “Wisconsinites who took on the personal responsibility to pay for their education deserve to be treated fairly by the system. But instead of standing up and voting for real reforms, Gov. Walker and his fellow Republicans are ducking for political cover.”