U.S. Rep. Ron Kind unveils student loan debt plan at UW-Eau Clai - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind unveils student loan debt plan at UW-Eau Claire

Statewide, students are leaving college with much more than a diploma; they’re racking up debt. On average, Wisconsin graduates leave school with nearly $28,000 in debt. It's a trend U.S. Rep. Ron Kind plans to address. He revealed new legislation on the UW-Eau Claire campus Thursday to fight back against student debt.

"The debt ratio has been growing so much in recent years that it's becoming disproportional to what the students can afford once they leave college," said Rep. Ron Kind, (D) 3rd District.

Loan debt is by no means a new struggle for students.

"Right now I'm thinking a ballpark of about $15,000 to $20,000, which is a lot," said Sean Szydel, UW-Eau Claire senior.

But you may be surprised at just how bad it's become.

"Nationwide, $1.2 trillion worth of student debt, which exceeds all credit card debt. So this is an economic bubble I'm afraid is going to burst and do considerable damage," said Kind.

On Thursday at UW-Eau Claire, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind unveiled his plan to tackle the issue. He hopes to put government profits from existing loan programs into Pell Grants that will go to help students from low income families. Kind also says students deserve to get the same interest rates as big banks, and says loan payments should be tied to earnings a student makes upon graduation.

"So if the income goes up, they'll be able to afford a little bit more in their debt payment plan," Kind explained.

Each part of the plan aligns with legislation that kind either sponsors or co-sponsors. UW-Eau Claire's Financial Aid Office says about 70% of its students graduate with some debt each year.

"It becomes part of your own financial education. Living within a budget, no matter if you have $10,00 to live on or $100,000 to live on, you need to live within a budget," said Kathy Sahlhoff, UW-Eau Claire Director of Financial Aid.

Students say after a degree and a job, they're looking forward to tackling another goal: getting rid of all that debt.

"I want to be not paying it for twenty years. So I'm going to pay it off in the next five to ten years if possible," Szydel said.

UW-Eau Claire says last year the average loan debt for students was $25,000.
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