Shortfalls in state funding meant that more than 41,000 Wisconsin students did not receive need-based financial aid for which they were eligible, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau reports.
State Sen. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, says the LFB statistics underscore how Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican dominated legislature are holding back the state’s “best and brightest” through budget cuts to higher education and financial aid and opposition to legislation to ease student debt.
“Gov. Walker’s decision to slash investments in our higher education system and shortchange financial aid programs has made it more difficult for students and families to make ends meet,” said Shilling, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges, in a press release Wednesday. Shilling requested the tally of Wisconsin Grants applicants be put on a "wait list" because of lack of funding.
The nonpartisan LFB reports that 37,844 financial aid applicants in 2013-14 who indicated they planned to attend a Wisconsin technical college and were eligible for state-funded Wisconsin Grants did not receive them due to lack of funds.
That year, 23,969 technical college students received Wisconsin Grants, the bureau reports in a July 31 memo.
In addition, 3,581 University of Wisconsin students who were eligible for Wisconsin Grants in 2013-14 did not receive them due to lack of funds, while 32,865 UW students did receive them.
Wisconsin Grants for students in the state’s technical college and university systems are funded and administered separately.
“When students and families struggle to pay off high-interest loans from predatory Wall Street banks, it has a ripple effect on everyone in our state,” Shilling said. “As a result of high interest rates, graduates with high student loan debt are less likely to buy a car, purchase a home, start a new business, and contribute to our local economies. The unwillingness of Republicans to recognize this crisis and find solutions for the 900,000 Wisconsin residents with student loan debt means that local families and businesses will continue to struggle.”
For example, the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill introduced by Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, and Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, would have enabled student loan borrowers to consolidate and refinance their loans at lower interest rates, but the bill was blocked by Republicans, Shilling says. So too were Democratic efforts to fully the Wisconsin G.I. bill that funds educational benefits for veterans, she says.