North Central College welcomed U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) to campus Friday, May 16, for a roundtable discussion with students and alumni about student loan debt. The Senator has proposed new legislation, the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, to reduce interest rates on existing student loans and to lower their monthly payments.
Durbin pointed out that small liberal arts schools like North Central College are typically more responsible in their counseling with families compared with for-profit institutions. “It’s important to work with families to help them make the best choices,” he said at the event. “North Central College is a great college with a great reputation.”
He added that North Central’s student loan default rate is 6.2 percent, compared to the Illinois average of 14.1 percent. There are 1.7 million people in Illinois paying student loans.
North Central President Dr. Troy D. Hammond and Dean of Financial Aid Marty Rossman also were part of the discussion. Rossman discussed the extensive efforts of the College in counseling students and responding to their needs for financial aid. “We’ve worked hard to provide transparency so students can understand what their payments will be with their loans,” he said. “We spend a lot of time going through their options and trying to assist them with shortfalls when they need help.”
Hammond explained that North Central College’s own Roller Loan Fund, established by George H. and Mabel T. Roller in 1986, helps bridge the needs of qualifying students by providing loans at 0 percent interest. “We loan nearly a million dollars annually to help students in this way,” he says. “Small private liberal arts colleges like North Central can best serve the socioeconomic needs of students.”
For 2013-2014, North Central awarded more than $37 million in institutional grants and scholarships to 96 percent of enrolled students.
Students and alumni participating in the discussion told Durbin about their own financial situations, which have required them to borrow for tuition costs. They represented situations like first-generation college enrollees, single-parent families, siblings attending college concurrently and other common scenarios that necessitate student loans.
Durbin reinforced the need for students to pursue a liberal arts education, even while considering future job opportunities. “Studying the liberal arts opens lots of doors,” he says. “I never envisioned while I was in college that I would someday attend law school and ultimately end up where I am now."
Sen. Durbin joined U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in introducing the new student loan legislation, which would allow borrowers with Federal Family Education Loans or Direct Loans to refinance their undergraduate loan debt at 3.86 percent. Across the country, many borrowers with outstanding student loans have interest rates of nearly 7 percent or higher for undergraduate loans, while students who took out new undergraduate loans last year paid a rate of 3.86 percent under bipartisan legislation passed by Congress last summer. The Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act would allow students and young people to pay back their outstanding loans at these same low rates, lowering payments by hundreds or thousands of dollars a year for potentially millions of borrowers.
Christina Richardson ’14, accounting major, will pursue master’s degree at Northern Illinois University and work for EY (Ernst &Young) in 2015.
Stephania Rodriguez ’14, human resource management major, Spanish minor, will be a graduate supervisor at Indiana University while pursuing master’s degree in higher education and student affairs.
Anthony Schullo ’15, history major with independent study in gender and sexuality studies.
Al Willett ’16, double major in marketing and management.
Casey Graham Barrette ’10, sociology/anthropology major, works for World Relief/Aurora as youth services specialist.
Alex Pirela ’13, social science/history major, works two part-time jobs at the West Chicago City Museum and West Chicago Public Library.
April Vrtis ’12, psychology major, graduates 2014 with a master’s degree in leadership-higher education from North Central and will work at Aurora University as a residence hall director.