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

Ben Meyer
Executive Producer
bmeyer@wjfw.com


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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 IN OTHER NEWS

ANTIGO - With one of the coldest days of the season so far, most people probably chose to stay inside Wednesday.

But for people in Antigo it was the perfect day to get outside and cook up some chili.

Antigo held its annual chili cook-off. 

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ELCHO - If you pass through Elcho, you can't miss the hundreds of Christmas lights as you drive down Highway 45.

The Elcho Christmas staple is all thanks to a couple who spends weeks setting up the display, after they spend most of their time saving lives.

Carl Bloechl and Lissa Iwanoski are both EMTs. Carl is also a R.N. in Antigo.

For four years now, the couple sets up decorations at an office building off of Highway 45 in Elcho.

It takes a couple of weeks and they use their time in between shifts to get the job done.

"We just hope we don't get called. Sometimes we do get called and we just drop it all and leave it out here and go," said Bloechl.

The cold winter weather usually slows down the set up, but this year's warmer weather allowed the couple to enjoy the visitors earlier.

"It makes me feel good inside that they enjoy it too, because it is work," said Iwanowski.

The display will be on until the beginning of next year.

The lights stay on from around 4:00 p.m. through 11:00 p.m.



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RIB MOUNTAIN - Granite Peak in Wausau wants to expand, but some people don't want that to happen. 

The Granite Peak ski area held a meeting Wednesday evening to discuss those plans. 

The public was invited to hear about the expansion and to get any questions they have answered.

There are some people that are not in favor of the plans due to land preservation concerns. 

Granite peak has been planning with the DNR for nearly three year to make sure those concerns would be put to rest. 

They have done more than just meet with the DNR.

"We've met with the neighbors and we've been meeting with other groups like The Friends of Rib Mountain, a couple of times, and the town," said Charles Skinner, the President and Owner of Granite Peak. "We've been wanting to come up with the best plan possible. We wanted to take the time that it took to get to this point and do the best job with balancing all the interests as possible."

Granite Peak is hoping that by adding a couple hundred acres and more variety, their facility will be able to compete with other large facilities around the country. 

With the new slopes, that would bring out more skiers and families, which would in turn help the north central Wisconsin economy.

"Our goal is, a generation from now, Granite Peak will be a healthy ski area that's contributing to the economy here and providing a healthy outdoor recreation for the residents of Wausau and is still here," said Skinner.

The DNR was not present this evening, but there will be another meeting held with them there.
 
We will let you know once those plans are made.

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LA CROSSE - The death of a woman initially thought to be the result of a freak accident on a La Crosse County road has now been blamed on her husband.

Forty-six-year-old Barbara Kendhammer, of West Salem, was found critically injured after authorities responded to a car crash Sept. 16. Her husband, Todd Kendhammer, told authorities a pipe fell from a truck as he was driving, broke through the windshield and hit his wife, who died the following day.

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MADISON - The University of Wisconsin Law School has notified more than 1,200 former applicants that they could be at risk of identity theft because the school's database was hacked.

The university says Social Security numbers from 2005 to 2006 applicants were recently compromised. The Law School has taken down the affected server as a result and added a firewall to better protect that data.

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PINE COUNTY - State politicians face a battle over paying for Wisconsin roads. This week, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos rode in an ambulance to show just how bumpy some roads are. One Price County woman had a real-life ride over rough roads in an ambulance. 

Not long ago, Sandy Krueger suffered a dislocated shoulder and sprained ankle after falling down a flight of stairs. An ambulance gave Kruger a painful ride over rocky roads to the hospital. Krueger says the EMT driver would even warn her when they were about to hit a "rough spot" in the road. 

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GREEN BAY - Students have left a Green Bay elementary school for the day after a mercury scare.

The students at Lincoln Elementary were dismissed at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, about an hour after the normal time, after being checked for mercury.

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