Ryan Mitchell's job at Charter School of Wilmington is to help students determine where they want to go to college and what career they hope to pursue.
More than ever, those conversations also involve another factor: How much college will cost?
"I even say, 'I don't want to crush your dreams,' " said Mitchell, a college counselor at the high school. "But I want them to know what to expect."
The nation's college student loan debt has swollen to $1 trillion based on some estimates -- more than credit card or car loans. And that total could increase even faster with one student loan interestrate set to double this summer.
The rate for government-subsidized Stafford loans will jump July 1, but the issue already took center stage in the presidential race this week.
Speaking at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, President Barack Obama called on Congress to prevent the rate from doubling. He will give a similar speech at the University of Iowa in an effort to connect with young voters.
Obama also took a veiled jab at the wealthy upbringing of his presumed GOP opponent, Mitt Romney.
"I didn't just read about this. I didn't just get some talking points about this. I didn't just get a policy briefing on this," Obama said in North Carolina.
"We didn't come from wealthy families. When we graduated from college and law school, we had a mountain of debt. When we married, we got poor together," he said in reference to himself and his wife, Michelle.
At a news conference Monday in Chester Township, Pa., Romney said he, too, supports extending the lower rate, and young voters should pick him to help the economy create more job opportunities for them.
However, his fellow Republicans in the House oppose keeping the rate low unless it is funded with cuts elsewhere in the government. Some conservatives also contend the federal tuition aid only serves to inflate college costs.
While Obama's stump speech and Romney's rebuttal reflect the politics of the moment, the interest rate change will have a real-life effect on 8 million students and their families who receive Stafford loans each year