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 | Higher Ed

Statement on Cengage-McGraw-Hill merger announcement

Two of the biggest textbook publishers announce controversial plan to merge, consolidating power in a broken marketplace.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Affordable College Textbook Act could save students millions on pricey books

Today, congressional leaders from both parties introduced legislation that could save American college students nearly a billion dollars on textbooks.

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News Release | Higher Ed

Statement on Cengage-McGraw-Hill merger announcement

Two of the biggest textbook publishers announce controversial plan to merge, consolidating power in a broken marketplace.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Affordable College Textbook Act could save students millions on pricey books

Today, congressional leaders from both parties introduced legislation that could save American college students nearly a billion dollars on textbooks.

> Keep Reading

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Student PIRGs | Higher Ed

Fixing the Broken Textbook Market

This study demonstrates that despite recent steps forward in the marketplace, high textbook costs will continue to be a problem for students unless the cost of high-priced, new editions of college textbooks comes down.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Student Loan Debt in Maine

Without a new plan from Congress, on July 1 the interest rate on subsidized Stafford student loans will double, from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. In Maine, 33,883 federal student loan borrowers will be impacted if the rate doubles.

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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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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Higher Ed

The Campus Debit Card Trap

Banks and other financial firms are taking advantage of a variety of opportunities to form partnerships with colleges and universities to produce campus student ID cards and to offer student aid disbursements on debit or prepaid cards. In addition to on-campus services, such as student ID functions offered on the card, some cards offer traditional debit card services linked to bank accounts; other cards provide additional reloadable prepaid card functions. The disbursement of financial aid and university refunds is the most significant partnership identified.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

The Cost of College Will Soar if Interest Rates Allowed to Double

The loans distributed by the U.S. Department of Education currently hold an interest rate of 3.4 percent. But that rate is set to double if Congress fails to act by July 1, 2012. If that occurs, millions of students will see their interest rates soar to 6.8 percent on the new loans they take in the next year thereby causing a steep rise in their loan burden and effectively increasing the cost of attaining a college degree.

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Blog Post | Higher Ed

Senate Banking Committee On Student Loans and Campus Cards | Ed Mierzwinski

Last week the U.S. Senate Banking Committee heard recommendations on campus banking and student loan issues from student advocates, including U.S. PIRG Higher Education Program Director Christine Lindstrom. The hearing also featured a spirited exchange between Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) and a bank witness concerning the failure of private student lenders to give student-consumers more options to re-finance or defer their loans, including in cases of extreme undue hardship, such as when the borrower dies suddenly.

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Blog Post | Higher Ed

Student Loan Forgiveness: Available for Many, Used by Few | Ethan Senack

More than 33 million Americans are eligible for student loan forgiveness, but only a tiny fraction to advantage of the program.

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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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Blog Post | Higher Ed

Obama's New Consumer Finance Chief Can Lower Student Debt | Rich Williams

President Obama took a bold and important step this week, standing up for student consumers by making a recess appointment of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The president's action means that the CFPB now has all its powers to protect students from unfair financial practices that pile on student debt, including lenders offering dangerously expensive private student loans and aggressive credit and debit card marketing.

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Blog Post | Higher Ed

Student Loan Defaults Skyrocket, Double in Past 6 Years | Rich Williams

On September 12th, the US Department of Education released the official FY 2009 cohort default rates on student loans. The number of students who defaulted within two years of entering repayment increased to 8.8%, up from 4.5% in FY 2003 and 7% in FY 2008.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bipartisan FUTURE Act today, which permanently funds historically black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions, and streamlines financial aid.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

College is expensive, requiring many students to take out significant loans to afford an education. On top of that, students have to deal with the additional costs of textbooks, computers and other critical supplies. As students head back to school -- or to school for the first time -- U.S. PIRG Education Fund is releasing a money-saving guide to help them cut those additional costs.

News Release

U.S. PIRG and partners submit letters to DOJ opposing Cengage - McGraw Hill merger

News Release

Dozens of student governments and organizations urge DOJ to block the Cengage - McGraw Hill merger

News Release

Federal appeals court allows lawsuit to proceed under state consumer protection law.

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