Former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold braved Monday night’s thick snowfall to preach college affordability to a receptive group of College Democrats.
Feingold finds himself locked in a pivotal race with incumbent Ron Johnson, the tea party favorite who rode a conservative wave in 2010 along with Gov. Scott Walker.
Following his respite from politics which he spent as the U.S. Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region of Africa teaching at Marquette and Stanford Law schools, Feingold has leapt ahead of Johnson in the polls, and looks to consolidate his advantage among university students in places like Madison through promoting legislation aimed at making college more affordable.
The UW-Madison graduate was warmly accepted as he found his place at the podium inside the antiquated Mosse Humanities building. Hailed as a progressive facility at the time of its completion in 1969, the crumbling brutalist hulk recalls an era when a liberal arts education and low tuition was valued as much as low taxes.
Feingold criticized states like Wisconsin for abdicating their role of making college tuition affordable through reliable funding, driving capable students out of college.
“As states have supported our public institutions less and less tuition has risen dramatically,” Feingold said. “As these costs rise we are getting to the point where it makes a difference what family you’re born into as to whether you get to have a college education.”
Those who decide to enroll end up with crushing debt, postponing adulthood in ways that stunt the economy, Feingold said.
“It’s stifling to the economy if somebody comes out of college and they have jobs and they can’t seriously think about buying a home,” Feingold warned. “What about the construction worker, the painters and the window manufacturers?”
Feingold bashed Johnson’s record of voting against Pell Grant funding and pledged to cosponsor Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s bill to allow the refinancing of student loan debt and suggested revenue from student loans be reinvested in education. However, he warned that true college affordability cannot be reached without commitment from states.
The Janesville native declined to specifically say how he would pay for the reinvestment in education, instead calling for an end to corporate inversions and outsourcing.
“I’d like to see some of that money repatriated and I’d be thrilled to see it used for something like getting us away from student loans,” Feingold said.
.@russfeingold talking college affordability "Everyone is negatively affected when young people can't afford [things]"— Andrew Bahl (@AndrewBahl) January 26, 2016