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 Sunday, Aug. 31, the 243rd day of 2014. There are 122 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: The Chicago and Rock Island Railroad will carry all who wish to attend the Chicago convention for half fare — that is, full fare to Chicago and return free. 1889 -- 125 years ago: Hardy Hetter, for several years yardmaster in the Burlington Railroad yards in Rock Island and Moline, was transferred to Beardstown. He was succeeded here by J.E. Albrecht. 1914 -- 100 years ago: Corn was estimated at 50 percent of the normal crop in Rock Island County by Crop Correspondent Thomas Campbell. 1939 -- 75 years ago: Robert Carroll, 12-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Farr Carroll, of near Aledo, won the grand championship of the Mercer County baby beef show with "Fat Stuff." 1964 -- 50 years ago: About 250 persons attended the first in a series of horse shows at the Hillandale Stables off Knoxville Road near Milan on Saturday afternoon and evening. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Ground was broken this morning for the $4.5 million Rock Valley Business Park near Rock Valley Plaza, Rock Island. The first building is 17,000 square feet for offices and a warehouse and should be completed by Dec. 1.