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Purdue President Mitch Daniels discusses student debt

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (May 7, 2015)-- Thousands of Indiana college students will walk the stage and get their diploma starting this weekend. Of course, many of them will also leave campus with a lot of debt.

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels talked to FOX59 about how the school is bucking the national trend.

"They see Purdue is committed to value," Daniels said.

Forty million Americans have at least one student loan averaging $29,000 according to credit monitoring group Experian.

Daniels says his university is making affordability and value a top priority, and he has the numbers to back that up.

Nationally, student loans have increased by 84 percent since the recession, according to Experian.

But not at Purdue.

"Student debt at Purdue in the last two years is down 18 percent. That translates into $40 million less that our students have borrowed. We want to keep that trend downward," Daniels said.

Daniels froze tuition in his first year at Purdue. Before that, the University saw 36 straight years of increases.

Next week, the president's trustees will decide if that freeze can continue.

"We are working on it as you and I are visiting here," Daniels said.

The former two-term Indiana governor lobbied Congress in March to create federal legislation to allow students to have the option of finding an investor. That investor could possibly be an alumnus to finance their degree in exchange for a share of their future income.

Daniels says the debt debate should be a main talking point for the 2016 presidential race.

"We need to get serious about our debt obligations or we are going to do something terribly unfair to young people who are going to have to pick up a tab for that. I think 2016 is a really important moment in our democracy," he said.

Just last week, a new survey revealed the majority of college graduates regret student loan choices.