CHICAGO (CBS) — U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis spoke on the UIC campus Tuesday, telling students they have a bright future. But student loans and a lifetime of debt were on the minds of many of the 100 or so in the audience.

UIC graduate student Amalia Jones was the first in her family to go to college.

Now, she says the student loan debt she’ll have when she finishes is overwhelming. She wanted to get some hope – and some answers – from Solis.

Asked if she did, Jones said, “I’m already familiar with a few loan repayment programs. She spoke about that, but other than that, no, unfortunately.”

Solis says the Obama administration is pinning its hopes on Congress extending the low interest rate on student loans.

“Otherwise it’s going to go up come July 1,” Solis said. “And that’s one of the first ways we can begin to tackle this whole discussion.”

Solis also told the UIC students, “I know how hard it is, and so does the president,” who announced recently that he’d finally paid off his student loans.

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