State Senator Jennifer Shilling visits UWL Student Association


Noah Finco

Photo Courtesy of Noah Finco

Noah Finco, University Government Reporter

Democratic Wisconsin State Senator Jennifer Shilling was featured as a guest speaker at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Student Association’s weekly Student Senate meeting on October 5, 2016. Shilling, a UWL alumni from the class of 1992, offered her insight on political issues facing UWL students such as the University of Wisconsin System budget cuts and student loan debt.

“I worry about the state of our university,” stated Shilling. “Since 2011, $250 million have been cut from the UW system with an additional $11 million to UWL.” According to the Wisconsin State Journal, UW System institutions have had to lay off employees, consolidated administration, reduced advising services and cut course offerings to compensate for the cuts. UWL specifically had to cut 45 full time positions along with administering a seven percent cut to of the UWL colleges’ operating budgets to cope.

UWL Student Association President Jacob Schimmel and Vice President Patrick Brever share the senator’s worries. “We find the disinvestment in UWL by the state legislature particularly concerning,” said Schimmel. “Due to the budget cuts, a lot of entities within the university have felt the cuts and that means less events, less programs, less classes and employees.”

The struggles of Wisconsin students do not end once they leave the university. “We have the third highest percentage of young adults in the nation who carry student debt,” claimed Shilling. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker spearheaded a college affordability initiative to address the student debt crisis. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Walker’s plan increases grants for Wisconsin technical colleges and students in emergency financial need, funds two new positions to increase internship opportunities to students, and requires UW Colleges to provide information to students and parents regarding student loan debt. Critics of Walker’s initiative, like Senator Shilling, say that the Governor is merely scratching the surface when it comes to the student debt crisis. “While [Walker’s proposals] sound attractive, for those who are graduated and out of college this does nothing to move the needle,” asserts Shilling. “The average student has $30 thousand in student loan debt… that is not the gift you should receive when you walk across that stage to get your diploma.”

As for what UWL students can do to address these issues, Senator Shilling called upon the UWL student body to call representatives and advocate for change at the capital. “The Student Senate has a responsibility to be the voice of the student body to the legislature,” states Brever. “We accomplish this by attending lobbying days, sending cards to representatives, and asking the students for their point of view on the issues.”

Senator Shilling is up for reelection for her senate seat in Wisconsin’s 32nd district on November 8, 2016. Her Republican opponent, former 32nd district senator Dan Kapanke, will be meeting with the UWL Student Association at their Student Senate meeting 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12, at Port O’ Call, Cartwright Center.