Make Higher Education Affordable

U.S. PIRG Higher Education Director Chris Lindstrom calling on Congress not to double the student loan interest rate.

Student Debt Is Skyrocketing

Higher education in America continues to be critical for both individual success and the social and economic health of our country. While college attendance has grown over the past two decades, state appropriations and federal aid have failed to keep pace with the rising cost of college, shifting more costs to students. As a result, more students than ever must rely on student loans to pay for a college degree, with the average borrower now graduating with over $26,000 in loan debt.  

Heavy student loan debt carries negative consequences for borrowers, who must make monthly payments with their hard-earned dollars rather than save up and get ahead. High debt can affect where graduates live, the kind of careers they pursue, when they start a family or purchase a home, and whether they can save for retirement. The combination of high student debt and low earnings can lead to default, ruined credit and wage garnishment. Such distress runs counter to the goal of higher education.

The U.S. PIRG Higher Education Project is working to:

1. Keep loans affordable: This July, interest rates will double on the subsidized Stafford loans that almost 8 million students use to pay for school. U.S. PIRG is campaigning to prevent interest rates from doubling and advocating for more and better repayment options once a student graduates. 

2. Increase grant aid to students, such as the Pell Grant: The Pell Grant is the federal government's cornerstone financial aid program, providing scholarship aid to almost 10 million students of modest income each year. U.S. PIRG is making sure that every student can rely on their grant to stay in school and make it to graduation.

3. Make textbooks affordable: Textbook prices are rising four times faster than inflation, leaving the average student now paying over $1,100 every year for textbooks. After working to end many tricks the publishing industry used to increase prices unfairly, U.S. PIRG is fostering real competition in the textbook market place by promoting more affordable options like open textbooks and open education resources.

Issue updates

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Students Call for Senate to Reject Student Loan Deal

Congress should be doing everything they can to make college more accessible. Yet S. 1334, the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act, would do the exact opposite, by making it harder and more expensive for America's future students to get the education they need.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Student Loan Interest Rate Deal in Senate Will Make Things Worse

Senate lawmakers agreed last night to a deal on student loan reform that is to be voted on as early as Tuesday of next week. Student loans should invest in our future by making education affordable and accessible. Instead, the Senate is forcing students to pay more in order to reduce the deficit.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Statement on Today’s Senate Vote on Student Loan Interest Rates

Today, a minority in the Senate succeeded in blocking legislation to reverse the doubling of interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans for students who need to borrow for college this fall. There’s still time to reverse the rate increase for incoming students. Returning the rate to 3.4 percent is a vital first step to avoid further raising the cost of college for more than seven million students this year.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Interest Rate Doubles for Seven Million Student Loan Borrowers

Due to Congressional inaction, the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans doubled today from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. The change will affect seven million students nationwide, and in total the rate increase will hike the cost of students' loans by $7 billion. However, because most new student loans are issued in August and September, Congress can still pass a retroactive fix.  

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Interest Rates for 33,833 Student Loan Borrowers in Maine Set to Double on July 1

According to an issue brief released today by U.S. PIRG, the upcoming increase in student loan interest rates would hike the cost of Maine students’ loans by $31 million. That translates into a $910 increase in debt per student, per loan.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Statement from Student and Youth Groups on Rep. Kline’s Student Loan Proposal

Yesterday, Rep. Kline introduced a student loan reform package, H.R. 1911, which pegs student loan interest rates to the market, moving away from the fixed rates that are set by Congress. Under this plan, student debt levels will increase. While we are pleased that the proposal includes a cap on interest rates, a critical feature to indicate to borrowers that their loans will not rise past certain limits, the interest rates on some loans could still rise to double digits - far too high.  

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Representatives Bass and Courtney Speak on Legislative Solutions to Student Debt Crisis

U.S. Representatives Joe Courtney (CT) and Karen Bass (CA) were joined today by student advocacy groups to highlight legislative solutions to rein in student loan debt. One year ago today, the United States' total amount of student debt crossed the $1 trillion mark.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Students React to President's Budget Proposal on Student Loans

While the President’s budget keeps rates low in the near term, we’re disappointed that it risks sky-high interest rates in the long term. The structure of the proposal switches student loan interest rates from a fixed rate to a rate that varies with the market, allowing students to take advantage of temporarily low rates, but offers no protection for students when rates inevitably begin to climb.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Federal Government Makes Billions from Student Loan Borrowers Yearly

Today, a coalition of youth and student groups released an issue brief demonstrating that the federal government is making billions in revenue through the federal student loan program. The report projects that student loans will generate over $36 billion in revenue in 2013, in part because of a scheduled July 1 doubling of Stafford loan interest rates.

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Media Hit | Higher Ed

New York Times: Student Loan Rate Set to Rise, Despite Lack of Support

“Higher education loans are meant to subsidize the cost of higher education, not profit from them, especially at a time when students are facing record debt,” said Ethan Senack, the higher education advocate at the United States Public Interest Research Group.

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