Walker signs college affordability bill at UW-La Crosse

Walker signs bill part of his college affordability package

Gov. Scott Walker made a stop at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Monday to sign a college affordability bill.

He visited college campuses throughout the state, signing into law four bills the Senate passed earlier this month.

Bill 742, the one he signed in La Crosse, requires the Department of Workforce Development to coordinate student internships with colleges and employers.

“Certainly helping coordinate more internships will help students at all our University of Wisconsin campuses get into the workforce sooner,” said Walker. “The sooner they’re able to do that, the more effective it is at helping deal with student loan debt.”

State Rep. Jill Billings (D) said that law, which applies to both paid and unpaid internships, doesn’t really make college more affordable for most students.

“Unpaid internships have no place in a college affordability package,” said Billings. “First of all, it’s probably not realistic for those students. They don’t have any extra time. Second of all, it doesn’t help them pay for college.”

The other bills create grants for technical college students, help two-year college students deal with financial emergencies and make sure colleges keep students up to date about their debt levels with an annual reminder.

Billings said Wisconsin is the third worst in student loan debt in the nation, according to an Institute for College Access and Success report, and Walker’s newly signed bills fall short in improving that.

“This package is very anemic and doesn’t address main issues that we have, like allowing people to refinance student loan debt,” said Billings. “That would give real relief to families and students in Wisconsin that have this debt that is really hurting our economic steps moving forward.”

Walker disagreed, saying, “The best way to keep student loan debt down isn’t just to look at refinancing but keep it low in the first place.”

Walker also announced the creation of a student loan debt specialist position Monday, who will serve as an outreach coordinator to help teach future student loan borrowers about their options.