Democrats explore ways to make tuition, college debt more manageable in northcentral WisconsinSubmitted: 09/16/2013

Ben Meyer
Executive Producer

WAUSAU - Student loans saddle Americans with more than $1 trillion of debt.

Meanwhile, college costs continue to rise steadily.

University of Wisconsin System tuitions increased about 20% in the last five years alone.

The tuition and debt problem hits students and graduates hard.

"If you have a four-year degree in the state of Wisconsin, you're paying for 18.7 years on your student loan. If you have a two-year degree, it's 16.7," says One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross.

"It's ridiculous. I'm just trying to get a degree, I'm just trying to get a job. I'm going to be paying for this job essentially for the rest of my life. It's like indentured servitude to the state," says UW-Marathon County Student Government President Cole Harder.

Wisconsin Legislative Democrats have made fighting high college costs and student debt levels a priority.

They took their message to UW-Marathon County today.

They believe those financial challenges hurt Wisconsin's larger economy.

"It's critical for us, both now and in the future. We don't want to see students coming out with huge amounts of debt burden that they're prohibited from buying a home, or from living the American dream like their parents have," says Stevens Point Democratic Sen. Julie Lassa.

Wisconsin Democrats hope to draw attention to the tuition and debt issue.

Their actual effectiveness in writing bills might be limited.

They remain in the minority in both the Senate and Assembly.

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RHINELANDER - The yellow Historical Society Museum on Pelham Street looks like many houses here in Rhinelander, but step through the doorway and see early 1900's history packed from wall to wall.

The Historical Society Museum will have an open house Saturday from noon to 4:00 p.m.

Pieces of Rhinelander's past are preserved inside the house.

Some of those items include a black and white photo of the original hodag, a drum from the old paper mill marching band, and a dining room set made by the Rhinelander Boat Company.

Not only are those items inside the house artifacts, so is the house itself.

"If the walls were empty there would be stories and neat things to see here. You take that, just the neat house and then of course fill it up with all of the items, every room is just a multitude of stories of different items that are in it," said Vice President of the Rhinelander Historical Society Bill Vancos.

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RHINELANDER - Northwoods Veterans will be taken care of this flu season thanks to The Rhinelander Veterans Affair Clinic. 

The clinic will provide free flu shots for Veterans starting Friday. 

Half the Veteran population is over 60 years old, which puts them at increasing risk with flu complications.

 Clinic nurse Christina Paris wants to make sure the Veteran community is taken care of. 

"We like to think of our Veterans as part of our extended family. 

And it's heartwarming to know that we can be here to help them and serve them the best we can," said Paris.

Providing this service to Veterans hits close to home for Paris.

 She served in the Air Force as a medic for 20 years. As a Veteran herself, she understands how important this service is.

"I'm so connected and I really feel like helping fellow service members and fellow Veterans is really important," said Paris.

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SCHOFIELD - Earlier this week, people found out Affordable Care Act premiums would go up by an average of more than 20 percent next year. In some cases, that could make some payments go up $50 to $300 per month.

It's just one reason two senators called Obamacare "a disaster."

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RHINELANDER - Fifty-one Wisconsin residents lost their lives to domestic violence last year.

Rhinelander's Tri-County Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault will honor those lives Friday night at a vigil.

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LAKEWOOD - What would you do if you felt like part of your history was taken from you?

That's what it felt like for Lakewood community members when the state fish hatchery shut down after operating for 72 years.

Since its doors opened in 1939, generations of Lakewood community members toured the DNR Hatchery.

"It was just a piece of our history," said Lakewood resident Scott VanLaanen.

Due to funding cuts the DNR shut down the trout hatchery in 2011.

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ONEIDA COUNTY - Prosecutors believe a 52-year-old man from southeastern Wisconsin drove up to Hazelhurst to have sex with a 14-year-old girl he met online.

Robert Weiss  of Hartford appeared via video in Oneida County Court Friday.

According to the criminal complaint, Weiss started talking with the girl on a website called "Hitwe." 

Weiss told the girl his name was Keegan and he was 14 years old.

On October 10, Weiss showed up at the girl's house and sexually assaulted her.

He was arrested early this morning.

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PORTAGE COUNTY - Portage County Health and Human Services says it's seen an increase in whooping cough cases in the area. It wants parents to make sure their families are up-to-date on their vaccinations.

Kids usually get a vaccine as a baby, but it says parents may not realize kids need a booster dose at 11-years-old.

Portage County Health and Human Services also recommends adults to get a booster if they haven't had whooping cough since childhood.

Whooping cough usually starts with a runny nose or mild cough, but can be dangerous for babies.

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