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FROM THE EDITOR: Growing student debt requires action

By Ben Rodgers

I recently learned I’m part of a problem that is hurting more and more Wisconsinites each year.

I am part of the student debt crisis, and it’s worse than I could have ever imagined.

The nationwide total is $1.6 trillion in student debt, a massive figure which signals economic woes greater than many expected.

An August story that appeared in The Press Times said Wisconsin alone is carrying $24 billion of that $1.6 trillion.

The Institute for College Access and Success released a report recently that puts Wisconsin in some not-so-great company.

The average debt for a student in the class of 2018 is $31,705, high enough for 13th in the nation.

Of the class of 2018, 64 percent leave with debt. This is the seventh highest in the nation.

That’s almost two out of three graduating college students leaving with an average debt of nearly $32,000 in 2018.

The easiest way to address student debt is to fix it before it becomes a problem, or avoid expensive four-year colleges and opt for a different, more affordable career path.

However, just as four-year colleges aren’t for everybody, neither are alternatives like technical schools.

Technical schools offer a great opportunity for lots of students who want to work in the trades.

But for jobs like a mechanical engineer, environmental scientist, economist, biochemist or teacher, a two-year degree will not pass muster.

However, for many of these students that debt could be lower by completing core requirement classes at a two-year school and then transferring to finish their education.

It’s an option I wish I would have considered.

On the plus side, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I should have my loans paid off by the time I turn 40, in six years.

Having been through the struggle myself, it’s not something I wish on this or any new generation of college students.

That’s why it’s refreshing to see Gov. Tony Evers and the Student Loan Refinancing Study Task Force trying to understand this problem and evaluate possible solutions.

As anyone with student debt can tell you, it’s hard to get ahead when you can’t keep up.

I’m not proud of my student debt, but I am hopeful for the future and look forward to what the task force comes up with.

If Wisconsin wants to move ahead, the state needs to come up with solutions that don’t put recent college graduates in a financial bind, so they can freely contribute to the economy without having to worry about keeping the lights on or making sure there is food in the fridge.

Wisconsin’s motto is “Forward,” but as things currently stand, it will take years before the majority of recent college graduates can even get to the middle of the pack.

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