School of Education News

Hillman explains to Iowa Public Radio that key drivers of student debt often receive little political attention

September 27, 2019

A recent report from Iowa Public Radio features thoughts from UW-Madison’s Nick Hillman on approaches to making college affordable.

Hillman is an expert in higher education finance who is an associate professor with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. He directs the university’s Student Success Through Applied Research (SSTAR) Lab.

Nick Hillman
According to IPR, the average cost of tuition and fees in Iowa is up 40 percent since 2009. Additionally, state funding has not recovered from cuts suffered during the Great Recession. As Democrats campaign across Iowa, many are offering voters ways to ease the burden of tuition and loans. 

Proposals range from completely free tuition and cancelled student debt to discounted community college and debt forgiveness. At the top of the field, though, there is a distinct difference in how far candidates would go to make college more affordable, as reported by IPR.

Hillman points out that private schools, though they play a significant role in student debt, are often left out of many proposals. According to Hillman, the majority of student loans taken out each year are for private institutions.

He also explains that the additional costs of things like housing and child care are also huge drivers of student debt, but receive relatively little attention from candidates. Making college affordable is more complicated than providing free tuition, he tells IPR, but that message is likely to resonate with college graduates and younger voters who are a growing share of the electorate.

Read the complete Iowa Public Radio report here.

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