By Andrew Drea -
As the election season creeps up on America, students at Monmouth College were able to hear about issues that affect them and their families from one of the people who deals with them every day, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois).
Durbin, the Senate’s assistant majority leader, spoke on issues that affect students and other Americans, specifically problems with financial aid and for-profit institutions.
“I think most of them [for-profit institutions] are worthless,” said Durbin, before telling the story of a 26-year old woman who obtained a degree from a for-profit institution while racking up $90,000 in debt. When it came time to find a job, the woman was told she had a “worthless diploma.”
“She made a bad decision and we let it happen,” said Durbin.
Meanwhile, student loan debt has surpassed credit card debt in the United States as grants and scholarships are cut and education costs continue to skyrocket. For example, Durbin talked about his alma mater, Georgetown University Law Center and how it costs $50,000 a year to go there for a total of $150,000 for the three years of study.
“It’s scandalous, and I’ve told them so,” he said. “When the microphones are off, administrators will say, ‘We charge it, because people will pay it.’ Their students may never be lawyers, but there’s one thing they will be, and that’s far in debt.”
Durbin also spoke about social issues that are dominating the current presidential election, specifically the controversy of Catholic and other religious organizations providing insurance that covers birth control to their employees.
“My feel is that a lot of people, particularly women voters, are standing on the sidelines saying ‘You’ve got to be crazy.’”
The senator feels that these issues are pushing voters away from the Republican Party. Simultaneously, he sees same-sex marriage as an issue that will continue to be on the forefront of modern politics but will be settled within the lifetimes of current students.
“The younger generation can’t imagine why it’s even an issue,” said Durbin. “The older generation is more skeptical. In your lifetime, it will become more common than not. We’re moving in that direction, and it’s the right thing to do. Whether it will happen at the federal level is not as certain. You have to remember there’s a Supreme Court.”
After meeting with the class, Durbin held a media gathering in the lobby of Wallace Hall with student and local media. He then had a private meeting with President Mauri Ditzler.
Born in East St. Louis, Durbin obtained his J.D. from Georgetown in 1969. After that, Durbin worked for various state officials in Springfield and unsuccessfully ran for state senate and lieutenant governor. In 1982, Durbin ran for the House of Representatives in what was then Illinois’s 20th Congressional District. He defeated incumbent Paul Findley. While serving in the house, he sponsored a number of bills, including the bill which prohibited smoking on all domestic flights. In 1996, he ran for the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Paul Simon, defeating current governor Pat Quinn for the Democratic nomination. In 2005, he became the Democratic whip and in 2007, became the assistant majority leader.