One and a Half Million People in Illinois are Paying Student Loan Debt

One and a Half Million People in Illinois are Paying Student Loan Debt


One and a Half Million People in Illinois are Paying Student Loan Debt (Springfield, IL) (via The Center Square) — One and a half million people in Illinois are saddled with student loan debt, among the largest in the nation.

In the 5th, 6th and 7th Chicago area Congressional Districts, more than 70% of those with student loan debt have applied for President Joe Biden’s student debt relief program.

Teri Ross, executive director of Illinois Legal Aid Online, said it looks like the U.S. Supreme Court may rule that the president does not have the ability to use executive action to discharge student debt.

“The Supreme Court seems to be saying that student debt relief needs to be addressed by Congress, that it can’t be addressed by executive order,” Ross told The Center Square.

It’s bad for Illinois to have so many people hamstrung by student debt, Ross said.

Ross went to law school as a career change when she was in her mid-20’s. By the time she completed her law degree, she was $100,000 in debt, she said.

“I hadn’t realized, going in, what a mental burden that debt would be,” she said.

Ross worried about money too much, she said.

“My mother said I’d be paying off my student loans until I died, and I could not disagree with her,” Ross said.

Because of her work in public interest law, Ross eventually got a fellowship that helped her whittle down her debt. The freedom from anxiety that that gave her helped her be a better lawyer and eventually a better mother because she was not constantly worrying about how to pay her utility bills and her rent, she said.

Ross lays some blame on secondary schools for the lack of financial literacy among Illinois young people.


“Many people don’t realize the effect that student loans are going to have until it is too late,” Ross said.

Colleges are too quick to get students to sign up for loans.

“It’s to the benefit of the college to get people enrolled. Nobody talks about what the monthly payment will look like and how interest rates can rise,” Ross said.

Lenders, particularly private lenders, don’t advise the students about what an appropriate amount to borrow is, she said.

“What will taking out this amount of money in loans mean in five years, when you have to pay it back,” she said.

In an ideal world, the colleges, the Congress and the lenders should address the problem of the high cost of college on the front end rather than on the back end, Ross said.

“The ideal situation is to provide enough aid so that people don’t have to be so disabled by debt,” Ross said.

Schools need to be incentivized to provide better conversations and to be more strategic about providing loans and aid to people from particular communities and demographic groups, Ross said.

For people who are in danger of defaulting on their student loans, Ross advises them to look at their options before they ruin their credit.

Visit the Legal Aid website Student Loan Default. There are lawyers in the legal services network who can provide free legal advice.

One and a Half Million People in Illinois are Paying Student Loan Debt

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