There are 45 million students across the country who owe a combined $1.6 trillion in student loan debt, according to the Federal Reserve.
On Wednesday, Gov. Tony Evers signed an executive order to create a task force on student debt.
According to a study by the Institute for College Access & Success, 64 percent of students who graduated in Wisconsin in 2018 had student loan debt.
Jodie Arnold has both an undergrad and graduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, but she also says she’s drowning in $80,000 of student loan debt.
“I don’t even think of my student loan debt as debt. It just has become part of a reality. Like it’s not credit card or something like that, it just feels like what everybody has,” she said.
Wednesday, Evers announced the task force whose goal it is to provide long-term strategies to reduce student debt and prevent abusive practices by loan companies.
“Student debt is not going to go away anytime soon but this task force will be a meaningful first step in addressing the crisis in our state, bolstering our economy, and building a state that works for everybody,” said Evers.
Student loan debt can stick with graduates for years, and for Arnold she says it has prevented her from doing certain things in her life.
“I can’t see a time, as long as I have this debt, that I would be able to own a home especially being in a relationship with somebody who’s in the same shoes that I am,” said Arnold.
At Chippewa Valley Technical College, they started a program two and a half years ago that teaches students financial literacy called Money Matters.
Vice President of Student Services Margo Keys says education is key to helping reduce the student debt numbers.
“One of the most important things we need to do is help students understand when they take that money out, what the cumulative effect of that is. Because I think sometimes it’s out of sight out of mind, so bringing awareness to it,” said Keys.
34 percent of the 11,000 students at CVTC take out federal loans.
“If you want to be a writer, or an artist, or a chemist, a biologist, a teacher, these are things you need education for,” says Arnold. “And there’s no magical formula for saving for it.”
The task force will include at least 13 members.
Gov. Evers does not have a timetable for how fast recommendations will be made, but says there is urgency to address student loan debt.