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

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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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

President to Sign Bill Preventing Student Loan Interest Rates from Doubling

Statement of Rich Williams, U.S. PIRG Higher Education Advocate, on the signing of bipartisan legislation to prevent subsidized Stafford student loan interest rates from doubling:

“Students can breathe a sigh of relief today.  At least for the next year, already debt-strapped students will get a temporary reprieve from doubling interest rates. 

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Result | Higher Ed

Stopping Student Loan Interest Rates from Doubling

With college student debt reaching record levels, it is essential that we stop adding to students' loan burden. In spring 2012, U.S. PIRG speaheaded a coalition to stop the interest rate on federal Stafford student loans from doubling from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. This increase would have cost eight million students an additional $1,000 per loan. At the coalition's urging, Congress came together to find a bipartisan solution, extending the low interest rate for an additional year.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Congress Must Keep Their Eye on the Prize

Statement of Rich Williams, U.S. PIRG Higher Education Advocate, on the upcoming vote on H.R. 4628: "Unless a new plan is adopted by Congress, interest rates on subsidized student loans for nearly 7.5 million students will double on July 1st."

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

President calls for extending lower interests on student loans to combat rising debt burden

Statement of Rich Williams, Higher Education Advocate for U.S. PIRG, on the President’s call for extending lower interests on student loans to combat rising debt burden.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Romney Endorses Low Interest Rate for Student Loans

Today presidential candidate and Republican Mitt Romney endorsed an extension of the low student loan interest rate for subsidized Stafford student loan borrowers. On July 1, the low 3.4 percent rate will double to 6.8 percent, unless Congress intervenes. Close to 8 million students will be negatively impacted.

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Media Hit | Higher Ed

New York Times: Student Loan Interest Rates Loom as Political Battle

Rich Williams, the higher education advocate for U.S. Public Interest Research Group, said he thought about 14 moderate Republican senators might support the effort to keep the interest rates down. “This should be a bipartisan issue,” he said. “It’s something everyone gets.”

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Ryan Budget Devastating to Pell, Windfall for Special Interests

Chairman Ryan's proposal recommends slashing Pell Grants which help more than 9 million students pay for college at a time of rising college costs, tight family finances and a job market that increasingly requires post-secondary education.

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