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 Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Higher Ed

New Report Identifies Most Troublesome Private Lenders to Students

WASHINGTON – Thousands of American students are using the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) public Consumer Complaints Database to settle disputes about private student loans, according to a new report from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund.

Sallie Mae, the student lending giant, generated the most private student loan complaints nationally, and ranked first or tied for first in every single state. Student loan borrowers in the U.S. carry $24,803 on average in total student loan debt.

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Blog Post | Higher Ed

Student Loan Forgiveness: Available for Many, Used by Few | Ethan Senack

More than 33 million Americans are eligible for student loan forgiveness, but only a tiny fraction to advantage of the program.

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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

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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Blog Post

Colleges all over the country have decided to open their doors to students, but reopening remains unsafe in nearly all states.

Blog Post

The U.S. Department of Education is distributing $7 million in grants to support open textbook creation and adoption. Here's what you should know before you apply.

Blog Post

Unnecessary costs for course materials, such as paying for access codes, are making a bad situation worse. 

Blog Post

The COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting campuses nationwide. Here are a few of the ways that institutions are stepping up to meet students’ basic needs during the new term

Blog Post

The COVID-19 pandemic presents a whole new situation for college students. This guide outlines items that students should pack when they return to campus.

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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