Durbin Discusses Debt

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)

By Frank Radosevich II
May 4, 2012

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin visited the Hilltop this week to discuss legislation that would keep interest rates on federal student loans from doubling this summer.

Holding the second highest rank in the U.S. Senate, Durbin (D-Ill.) said the interest rates for federal Stafford loans, one of the most common types of student loans, would increase to 6.8 percent in July unless action is taken to prevent it.

“We have got to keep this interest rate low,” he told a group gathered at the Cullom-Davis Library. “We need to help the next generation of students get the education that they need to lead this country and come in to great schools like Bradley University.”

Dave Pardieck, executive director of financial assistance at Bradley, said 60 percent of all students receive need-based financial assistance. He said the University strives to make a Bradley education affordable and accessible to all.

“Our tuition is, by design, about $4,000 to $5,000 less than peer institutions,” he said. “In any given year, the University will provide from its own resources well over $40 million in direct assistance to our students.”

Pardieck called the Stafford loan an “essential part of the college financing mix” that provides more than $20 million a year to roughly 3,000 Bradley students who take out the loan.

Durbin has co-sponsored the Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act of 2012, which would maintain the current rates of 3.4 percent. A similar bill has been passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Bradley President Joanne Glasser thanked Durbin for calling attention to the issue and for his work on promoting accessible higher education in Illinois.

“Senator Durbin is a champion of higher education,” President Glasser said. “Senator Durbin has been a great friend of our university and of all Bradley students. He has been willing to listen to our concerns and has been an advocate for us for any issue that we brought to his attention.”

Dashawn Cason, a freshman studying economics with minors in political science and international studies, spoke at the event and admitted he did not think he could afford college. Cason, the first in his family to go to a university, said loans and assistance have given him the chance to make attending college a reality.

“Thanks to the assistance I received from Bradley, I’m here,” Cason said, “and I’m doing wonderful things and excelling inside and outside the classroom.”

Durbin himself relied on federal student loans under the National Defense Education Act to cover the cost of his undergraduate and law school education. He shared, with a hint of humor, how his total debt borrowed over seven years amounted to $8,500, a small sum by today’s standard but more than half of his starting salary for his first job out of law school.

“Now if that sounds like a joke, and I’m sure it does to current students, it’s not,” he said.