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As Graduation Nears, Senator Durbin Weighs in on Rising Student Debt

CHAMPAIGN-- "I think most people would be shocked if they had an idea of the student debt today. It's greater than credit card debt in America. It's that big."

Thousands of students at the University of Illinois, Parkland College, Danville Area Community College, and more are preparing for graduation. But Senator Dick Durbin says too many of them are not prepared for the reality that awaits them after receiving their diplomas.

U of I freshman Julie Summers says, "We haven't really talked about what's going to happen after graduation, but I would hope that they would help me with paying for that." Senator Durbin says, "Many of the students, happy at graduation, it will dawn on them they have a huge debt to pay afterwards."

And Durbin says that lack of foresight is what many loan companies take advantage of. Summers says, "I'm only a freshman now so I really haven't thought that much about it. It's pretty far in the future for me." Even those who get help paying for school, from parents or elsewhere, are racking up debt. Student debt has increased 25% nationally in the past 8 years. Illinois students owe less than the national average, but that figure is still approaching $30,000.

And some tell us it's going to impact their post-graduation plans. Freshman Maggie O'Brien says, "A lot of grad schools cost so much more than undergrad, it's a lot of loans that you have to take out. It's going to be a lot of pressure to have to pay that off."

Senator Durbin says it's long been time to protect students from crippling loans. $30,000 is a lot to pay back, he says, but he's seen people in even worse shape. "I have students who are contacting me, former students, over $100,000 in debt for a bachelors experience. That's incredible. And there's no way many of them are going to be able to make the money to pay that off."

Adam Rife reporting