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

U.S. PIRG Urges Further Action on Campus Debit Cards

U.S. PIRG is urging federal policy makers to clean up the campus debit card marketplace, after an ABC News investigation found that a multimillion-dollar deal between TCF Bank and the University of Minnesota - which offered students checking accounts linked to their campus ID cards - hits students with hidden fees as high as $37 per transaction.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

President Makes Commitment to College Access

Students are the future of this country and it is critical that we set them up for success. Today, the president made a serious commitment to increasing access to higher education, and that is a major step in the right direction.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Student Loan Deal Passes Senate 81-18, Will Put Students Deeper in Debt

Despite the threat that higher student debt poses to student borrowers, the Senate has twice beaten back attempts to extend the low 3.4 percent interest rate for student loans. Instead, the Senate negotiated a compromise, which passed today, 81-18.

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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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Media Hit | Higher Ed

Average student loan debt rises to $26,600 for class of 2011

"Increasing student debt in a weak economy can be a knock-out blow to many considering college," said Rich Williams, higher education advocate with U.S. Public Interest Research Group, which advocates for students. "As our economy is recovering, lawmakers must send every signal that college is a good investment. "
 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection, Higher Ed

As Fall Financial Aid is Disbursed, Senator Issues Urgent Warning to Students Using Campus Debit Cards

Senator Sherrod Brown (OH), Chairman of the Senate Banking Subcommittee on Financial Institution and Consumer Protection, issued an urgent warning to students receiving financial aid in the next two weeks that predatory bank fees can quickly cut into their college money.

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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

President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced today that the Education Department would allow federal student loan borrowers to forgo payments for 60 days without penalty.

Blog Post

Getting educators and students the course materials they need during COVID-19

News Release | U.S. PIRG

Freezing student loan payments for the duration of the pandemic will allow Americans to keep food on the table and stay safe. Congress needs to act swiftly to make it financially possible for people to do the right thing and stay home.

Blog Post

Thousands of college campuses are shutting down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Here's how campus administrators can serve vulnerable students as the crisis continues. 

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

New report says deals with publishers could make college textbooks more expensive

Higher Ed

Automatic Textbook Billing

Textbook publishers continue to add to the financial burden of college through a variety of tactics such as automatically charging students for textbooks on their tuition bill. Many of these automatic billing contracts fail to deliver real savings for students, reduce faculty and student choice, and give even more power to a handful of big publishing companies.

 

Higher Ed

Accessing federal student aid is about to get easier

On Dec. 10, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bipartisan FUTURE Act, which will streamline financial aid—by allowing the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Education to share data that will shorten the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

 
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