After four years of doing nothing in Washington, D.C., Ron Johnson finds himself having to talk to voters in Wisconsin as he seeks reelection but he might find it hard to garner support on the campaign trail when he says that college students are too lazy to finish school on time and that student loan debt is easy and fun.
But that’s the bizarre argument Johnson made at a public appearance in Verona over the weekend when asked by a constituent about the problem of college affordability. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Johnson said that college students are taking longer to graduate because they don’t feel any urgency to get to work and start contributing to the economy. “Loans are pretty easy to get and college is a lot of fun,” Johnson also said, while noting that many students can attribute their student loan debt to the fact that federal loans are easy to obtain and because they chose the wrong degrees of study.
Nearly 40 million Americans now hold over $1.2 trillion in student loan debt nationally. According to the U.S. Federal Reserve System there are 753,000 Wisconsin residents carrying federal student loan debt and that number will only continue to grow, as 67 percent of graduates from four-year colleges in Wisconsin will have student loan debt when they leave school.
But as the cost of college rises — tuition has doubled in the past 12 years – Wisconsin incomes are not. Under largely Republican leadership, Wisconsin has seen the largest decline in the percentage of families considered “middle class” since 2000. A report released last week by the Pew Charitable Trust shows that Wisconsin’s median household income has fallen by 14.7 percent since 2000, the worst drop of any state and more than double the average decline nationally. In 2000, Wisconsin incomes were well above the national average but are now well below, pushing the prospect of helping to send their kids to college out of reach for many working Wisconsin families.
“Only an out of touch millionaire like Ron Johnson, whose career has been bought and paid for by his in-laws, would think college kids are just too lazy to finish school or that middle class families would prefer to be crippled by student loan debt,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin Communications Director Melissa Baldauff said Thursday. “Johnson has no idea what reality is like for middle class families in Wisconsin who, despite working harder than ever, have seen the worst drop in income of any state in the country. You shouldn’t have to be a millionaire like Ron Johnson to be able to help your kids go to college.”