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

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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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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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Students’ Statement in Support of the Student Loan Affordability Act of 2013

Today, Senators Harry Reid, Tom Harkin, Patty Murray, and Jack Reed introduced the Student Loan Affordability Act of 2013. This bill creates a workable solution to keep student loan interest rates low until 2015 while Congress seeks to reauthorize the Higher Education Act and reach a comprehensive solution to the student loan crisis that is good for students.

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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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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Responding to Students, Congress Extends Low College Loan Rate

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

Congress listened to students and their families and delivered a bill that stops student loan interest rates from doubling. Students already face unprecedented student loan debt and adding an additional $1,000 more would not only crunch individual borrowers, but would have further weighed down the recovering economy. We applaud Congress for coming together to pass this much-needed legislation.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Congress Can’t Risk an Incomplete on Student Loan Interest Rates

Statement of Rich Williams, Higher Education Advocate for U.S. PIRG, on the failure to move debate forward on a bill to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling this July:

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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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