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 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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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Issue Brief: Don't Double Our Rates

Congress should be helping to keep college affordable, not making it more expensive for student loan borrowers to pay for college.

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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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Blog Post | Higher Ed

Students to Congress: Don’t Double Our Rates | Chris Lindstrom

Earlier this week, the Education and Workforce Committee in the U.S. House held a hearing to purportedly “strengthen” the federal student loan program. Sadly, the proposals put forth by leaders in the hearing do anything but help solve the problem of high cost federal student loans. What the hearing did do was serve as a grave reminder that on July 1, student loan interest rates on subsidized Stafford student loans will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent—driving up the cost of higher education for 8 million students by $1,000 per loan.

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Media Hit | Higher Ed

Wall Street Journal: Prepaid Cards Go to School

For some students, a prepaid card offered through a college may be the fastest way to receive student-loan funds, says Rich Williams, higher education advocate with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. But the cards can carry fees that eat into your balance, says Mr. Williams, including ones for buying or reloading the card and withdrawing money from ATMs.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

CFPB Issues Consumer Advisory on Campus Debit Cards, Asks for Stories

Washington, D.C. – The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau today issued a consumer advisory on its blog providing tips for students expecting scholarships and loans onto “what appears to be – a school-endorsed debit card.” The blog post comes just a day after the FDIC, a bank regulator, fined the largest campus debit card provider, Higher One, for unfair and unsafe practices.  The bureau is also asking consumers to share their experiences and provides a tool to submit complaints. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

FDIC Orders Higher One to Repay Students $11 million in Campus Debit Card Settlement 

Washington, D.C. – The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) today announced an $11 million civil penalty and restitution settlement with the largest campus financial aid disbursement and debit card company Higher One and its bank affiliate for alleged “unfair” and “unsafe” practices involving overdraft fees imposed on college students. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

New Financial Aid Shopping Sheet Helps Students Know Before They Owe

“The good news today is that students have another tool to help keep skyrocketing student loan debt in check.  

“College students need to understand how much college costs and how much they will owe after graduation.  However, financial aid award letters often make it hard for students to answer these questions. 

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DEFEND THE CFPB

Tell your representative to oppose the “Financial CHOICE Act,” which would gut Wall Street reforms and destroy the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as we know it.

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