It's a 1.2 trillion dollar problem that's worse than all of the nation's credit card and auto loan debt combined.
Experts and lawmakers say student loan debt, carried by 40 million Americans, is one of the biggest threats to economic growth.
That data leaves some college students in the area scratching their heads about the debt they're piling up.
Just ask Western Illinois University freshman Channing Voss.
"I think that college overall is a little pricy, especially, I mean, we are in the cafeteria, the little things are what they get you at," Voss said.
Voss is one of the 12 million Americans borrowing money to attend college. He's studying law enforcement, and hopes to become a Marine.
While he says he understands what paying back those student loans will mean post-graduation, he thinks most of his classmates don't.
"I see people here that, the idea of bills and the idea of having to work for money is completely foreign," Voss said.
The average WIU student graduates with around $25,000 in debt, which is lower than the national average debt, says Director of Financial Aid Bob Andersen.
"For some time there, if we just said, you can borrow up to this amount, students would borrow up to this amount, and not think about 'Oh I have to pay it later,'" Andersen said. "And so they aren't thinking about what will happen to them in the future."
One student who says he doesn't worry about his loans too much is freshman nursing student Jose Morales.
"My major is a good paying major," Morales said. "So student debt won't be that too much to worry about once I get a job. So I just don't worry about it. If I were a different major, I would probably be worrying about it a lot more, but not as much."
According to Andersen, WIU has set up work programs for students wanting to borrow less, and has also taken to giving out more grants to offset their costs, as well as offering financial literacy courses for students to better understand their loans.