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

President Obama Calls for End to Unsustainable Student Debt

In the annual State of the Union Address, President Obama called for an end to unsustainable student debt. Higher education is the right investment for our nation to rebuild its economy. In a time when students and families are struggling to make ends meet, congressional leaders need to be doing more, not less, to keep college accessible and affordable.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

CFPB Announces Further Investigation of Campus Debit Card and Student Loan Disbursement Practices, Asks for Student Stories

Banks and other financial firms contracted to disburse federal financial aid often charge high and unfair debit card fees. U.S. PIRG applauds the CFPB for redoubling its efforts today to protect students from being nickel-and-dimed out of their financial aid money.

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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

Broad Coalition Urges Congress to Prevent Doubling of Student Loan Interest Rates

Today, a broad coalition of student, education, faith, business, labor, consumer protection and school administrator groups and associations sent a letter to Republican and Democratic leaders urging action to prevent the doubling of interest rates on student loans.

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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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