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

FY18 Open Textbooks Program Appropriation an Important Step for College Students

Statement by Kaitlyn Vitez, higher education advocate for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, on the inclusion of an open textbook program appropriation in the FY18 omnibus budget just introduced in Congress.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Higher Ed

USPIRG Statement on Department of Education rule on Preemption of student loan servicing

Now that the U.S. Department of Education has said that state efforts to stop unfair and deceptive actions by federal student loan servicers are pre-empted by weaker federal law, student loan borrowers who have been misled by the financial firms servicing their student loans have lost access to strong consumer protections in the states. The Education Department's interpretation clears the path for predatory lenders and institutions to continue taking advantage of students seeking higher education. 

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News Release | The Student PIRGs | Higher Ed

Release of New Report: Open 101

Earlier today, the US Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) released a new report, investigating those high textbook prices for common courses at schools across the country. Entitled Open 101: an Action Plan for Affordable Textbooks, the report contains recommendations that, if enacted, could save students billions of dollars by ensuring the materials that students buy for their general education classes is free instead.

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Report | The Student PIRGs | Higher Ed

Open 101

Skyrocketing textbook prices for common university courses are adding insult to the burdensome debt students assume to pay for college. This new report investigates those high textbook prices for common courses at schools across the country.

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News Release | Higher Ed

New Bill Could Save Students Millions In Textbook Costs

Statement from Kaitlyn Vitez, Higher Education Advocate, on action by U.S. Senators to address the rising costs of textbooks, proposing a new bill to create a grant program to promote free textbooks at colleges across the country.

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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; Student PIRGs

The Biden administration released its $1.8 trillion American Families Plan Wednesday with investments ranging from paid family leave and childcare to higher education. One key element to the plan is an $85 billion increase to the Pell Grant, a need-based financial aid program for low and middle income students.

News Release

New Secretary Cardona to forgive loans for some borrowers whose schools shut down

Blog Post

Some student loan servicers take advantage of borrowers through unfair, predatory and even illegal lending methods. It’s a problem MASSPIRG and our partners have been working to solve for years — and our efforts were rewarded this past January, when the Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights was passed by the Legislature and then signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker. Nearly 1 million student borrowers across the commonwealth now have the protections they deserve against deceptive lending practices.

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

 COVID-19 has raised the barriers students face both financially and technologically to access course materials, even if it has not necessarily made course materials more expensive. Students who lost jobs due to the pandemic or who lacked reliable internet access were hardest hit by course materials costs. These problems will persist past the public health crisis without increased funding and implementing long term policies that prioritize access and affordability.

Blog Post

A survey on college textbook affordability during COVID-19.

Higher Ed

Student groups urge Congress to support higher education funding during COVID-19 crisis

Sixteen student groups from across the country have outlined ways Congress can support higher education needs during the COVID-19 crisis. The guidelines include increasing funding for Pell Grants, expanding access to affordable course materials, and providing relief for those struggling with student loan repayments.

 

Higher Ed

Fixing the Broken Textbook Market

The high price of college textbooks remains one of the most significant out of pocket expenses for students, and there has been little measurable improvement in key textbook affordability measures over the last six years. 

 

Higher Ed

Textbook merger fails to get approval from U.S. Department of Justice

In a win for college students, textbook publishers Cengage and McGraw-Hill stopped their merger after failing to get approval from the U.S. Department of Justice. We still have a long way to go, however, to ensure students have access to more affordable course materials.

 

Higher Ed

Lawmakers freeze student loan repayment during the coronavirus outbreak

As hours are reduced and more service, retail and hospitality jobs are lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans—including many student loan borrowers—are struggling to make ends meet. We commend federal lawmakers for putting a freeze on student loan repayments during this time of crisis. 

 
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