U.S. Rep. Ron Kind today voted to strengthen our economy through investments that create jobs now and ensure our students are prepared for the jobs of the future by making college more affordable. H.R. 4348 passed 373-52.
"Businesses and local governments in Wisconsin and across the country will now have the certainty they need to move forward on important transportation and infrastructure projects that are so vital to our economy," said Rep. Kind. "This is a bipartisan, job-creating bill that invests in our future, ensures we get people back to work now and creates long-term opportunities in our state."
The bill will create or save more than 2 million jobs, authorize highway and transit programs for more than two years at current levels, make key reforms consolidating transportation programs and cut red tape, and leverage federal resources to expand public-private partnerships in transportation. Every $1 billion of federal funds invested in highway and transit infrastructure is expected to create or sustain an estimated 34,800 jobs. Wisconsin is slated to receive $786 million in highway and transit infrastructure dollars in 2012.
The bill also makes an important investment in our ability to grow the economy and compete globally by including the provisions to keep student loan interest rates from doubling on July 1.
"We must take the steps necessary to keep students in the classroom and interest rates low so that our kids can get the education and skills they need to succeed," said Rep. Kind. "Anyone with the talent and determination to attain a higher education should have the opportunity to do so, especially in a 21st century economy in which a growing number of jobs require a degree."
Tuition rates at four-year colleges and universities have risen over 32 percent in the last decade, piling our young adults high with student debt. In fact, two-thirds of the Class of 2010 graduated with loan debt and student loan debt now exceeds credit card debt in the United States.
Western Wisconsin is home to six four-year universities, one two-year university, and four technical colleges attended by over 80,000 undergraduate students. According to the 2010-11 University of Wisconsin System Fact Book, in the entire UW system, 71 percent of resident undergraduates had loan debt at graduation, with the average loan debt being $25,397.
Without Congressional action, interest rates on subsidized Stafford student loans -- one of the few affordable programs for students and families -- would have doubled, from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1. The bill will save 163,427 Wisconsin student borrowers (in the 2012-13 academic year) an average of $968 over the life of their loan.