Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is collecting stories about crushing student loan debt as part of his push to reform lending laws, but few law school students have shared their woes.
"We are currently not hearing too much from law school students or former students — more stories are coming from students of for-profit schools," a Durbin aide said in an e-mail.
At a hearing last month, Durbin was concerned that the total outstanding student loans will soon exceed $1 trillion, and said the most pressing concern is private student loans, a far riskier way to pay for an education than federal loans. Several lending sites offer private loans to law students.
Durbin, who himself took out loans to go to law school, has introduced legislation to prevent students from being lured into high-interest loans based on false promises. He urged students to contact him about their situation.
Law students owe an average of around $80,000 for graduate schooling, according to the nonprofit group American Student Assistance. The American Bar Association said the average educational debt for law school graduates last year was $66,000 for public school graduates and $100,000 for private school graduates — not counting undergraduate debt.
Durbin says the bill he introduced with Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the Know Before You Owe Act of 2012, would require schools to counsel students before they sign on to expensive, even unnecessary, private student loan debt and inform them if they have any untapped federal loan eligibility.
During remarks on the Senate floor last month, Durbin said he is living proof that student loans work.
"I borrowed money to go to college and law school. I paid it back and felt it was money well invested. I stand here today because of it," Durbin said. "A lot of students have gone through the same experience. Unfortunately, too many students today are being steered into loans that they will never be able to repay."