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

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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Media Hit | Higher Ed

New York Times: On Campus, New Deals With Banks

“Campus debit cards are wolves in sheep’s clothing,” Rich Williams, higher education advocate for U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund and lead author of the report, said in releasing the report. “Students think they can access their dollars freely, but instead their aid is being eaten up in fees.”

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Higher Ed

The Campus Debit Card Trap

Banks and other financial firms are taking advantage of a variety of opportunities to form partnerships with colleges and universities to produce campus student ID cards and to offer student aid disbursements on debit or prepaid cards. In addition to on-campus services, such as student ID functions offered on the card, some cards offer traditional debit card services linked to bank accounts; other cards provide additional reloadable prepaid card functions. The disbursement of financial aid and university refunds is the most significant partnership identified.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

BANKS SKIM MILLIONS IN FEES FROM STUDENT AID USING DEBIT-CARD-LINKED STUDENT IDS

Washington, D.C. – Over 9 million students are at risk for increased educational debt, due to bank-affiliated student debit cards that come with high fees, insufficient consumer protections, and few options.  Financial institutions now have affinity partnerships with almost 900 campuses nationwide, grafting bank products onto student IDs and other campus cards to become the primary recipient of billions in federal financial aid to distribute to students.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

There is no 'A' for effort

"It seems safe to say that the more than seven million students who will be taking out Stafford student loans for the next school year, join our disappointment that today the Senate could not pass a bill to keep interest rates from doubling on July 1.  

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Media Hit | Higher Ed

CNN: Consumer Bureau: Now, It Can Do Something

Rich Williams, a higher education advocate for U.S. Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG) said he's looking forward to the consumer bureau's work with student loans, as well as credit cards and debit cards issued on campus. With a director, the bureau can now set rules of the road for all providers of student loans, not just those issued by banks.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

New Consumer Finance Chief Can Lower Student Debt

President Obama is taking a bold step to protect student consumers from financial tricks and traps by announcing a recess appointment of his well-qualified nominee, Richard Cordray, to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

143,000 Students to Lose Their Pell Grant Next Year

On Friday, Congress passed the FY2012 appropriations bill, changing eligibility requirements for Pell grants eliminating about 143,000 Pell Grant recipients from the program next year.

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

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Takes First Step to Protect Students but Hamstrung from Going Further

Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced a new initiative to improve financial literacy tools for students before they enter college.

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

Obama Announces Initiatives to Ease Student Loan Debt

Tomorrow, President Obama will announce a series of initiatives that will reduce the burden of student loan debt that millions experience after graduation.

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DEFEND THE CFPB

Tell your senators to oppose the “Financial CHOICE Act,” which would gut Wall Street reforms and destroy the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as we know it.

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