Emilia Strnad is a sophomore at Augustana College who already has racked up $25,000 in debt, even with the support of Pell grants and subsidized loans.
"I'm definitely scared," she said, "especially if the interest rate goes up to 6.8 percent."
Ms. Strnad, of Appleton, Wis., is studying political science and psychology. On Wednesday, she listened to Cheri Bustos, the Democratic 17th District Congressional candidate, speak at one of her classes.
Her visit came a day after Republicans blocked U.S. Senate debate on the Democrats' version of a bill to keep interest rates for subsidized Stafford loans at 3.4 percent for another year, rather than automatically growing to 6.8 percent on July 1 as they would under a law enacted five years ago. The bill would pay for the extension by changing a law that lets some wealthy taxpayers avoid Social Security and Medicare taxes by classifying their pay as dividends instead of cash income.
The move was further evidence of the ineptitude of a "do-nothing Congress," Ms. Bustos said.
"There's a reason why the approval rating of Congress is in the single digits," she said.
"I've worked most of my career in the private sector where you've got to have results," Ms. Bustos said. "You've got to get things done."
On April 27, the House passed a GOP version of the bill. Democrats oppose that plan because it would be paid by abolishing a preventive health fund created by health care reform legislation.
Both Ms. Bustos, a former health-care executive, and her Nov. 6 opponent, U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Colona, agree on the need to stop the interest rate from rising. But Rep. Schilling, who was unavailable for comment Wednesday, supports the Republican plan.
Ms. Bustos said the two factions should seek a compromise. But she said the inability to even bring a bill to the Senate floor for debate left her wondering if that was possible.
Her Augustana conversations stretched beyond student loans to touch on energy policy, the lack of diversity in Congress, Medicare and Social Security. There were few votes for Ms. Bustos to win in the class; a majority of the students were from the Chicago area.
She told students her role model was the late Paul Simon, a liberal icon who represented Illinois in the U.S. Senate until 1997. When students were asked to raise their hands if they knew who Mr. Simon was, only two of about 15 popped up.
But even if her reference points didn't always tally with the students, Ms. Bustos was well-received.
"I think she's a very smart woman, and she has a lot of good views," Ms. Strnad said. "And it's nice to see a woman in politics."
Today is Thursday, April 24, the 114th day of 2014. There are 251 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: We learn that it is a contemplation to start a paper mill in Rock Island during the summer by a gentleman from the East. 1889 -- 125 years ago: The gates of Oklahoma were swung open at noon today, and a throng of more than 30,000 settlers started over its soil. 1914 -- 100 years ago: The Iowa Coliseum Co. was incorporated with $40,000 capital and planned a building on 4th Street between Warren and Green streets in Davenport. 1939 -- 75 years ago: Plans are being discussed for resurfacing the streets in the entire downtown district of Rock Island. 1964 -- 50 years ago: Some 45 jobs will be created at J.I. Case Co.'s Rock Island plant in a expansion of operations announced yesterday afternoon at the firm's headquarters in Racine, Wis. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Gardeners and farmers cheered, but not all Quad-Citians found joy Saturday as more than an inch of rain fell on the area. Motorists faced dangerous, rain-slick roads as the water activated grease and grime that had built up during dry weather.