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Friday, April 12, 2024
State Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, is calling for an increase in financial aid to help in-state students graduate debt-free. 

State Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, is calling for an increase in financial aid to help in-state students graduate debt-free. 

Democrats unveil proposal for debt-free college

College affordability has been on the lips of many state politicians in recent days, and two state Democrats continued the trend Monday by introducing a bill that would expand state financial aid programs.

The bill, introduced by state Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, and state Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, would require financial aid to cover the full cost of attending school, including tuition, fees and housing for students.

“It is completely counterproductive to continue forward with a system that is tying the hands of our future generations,” Sargent said in a press conference unveiling the bill. “That’s why … we’re announcing a plan to bring debt-free college to Wisconsin.”

To qualify for funding, students would have to agree to stay in the state for three years after graduation and maintain a certain grade point average.

“We can educate and prepare our young people and address brain drain all at once,” Sargent said. “This bill gives students the freedom that does not currently exist in our student debt loan crisis reality.”

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau has not released an estimate of how much the program expansion will cost.

Sargent’s proposal comes after Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans unveiled their own package to help debt-laden students. In addition, two other Democrats, state Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, and state Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, have pushed their own bill to create a state-run, student loan refinancing agency.

While legislative leaders have said they are committed to passing the Republican package of bills, the fate of the other measures remains uncertain as the session wraps up in late February.

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