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 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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Result | Higher Ed

Stopping Student Loan Interest Rates from Doubling

With college student debt reaching record levels, it is essential that we stop adding to students' loan burden. In spring 2012, U.S. PIRG speaheaded a coalition to stop the interest rate on federal Stafford student loans from doubling from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. This increase would have cost eight million students an additional $1,000 per loan. At the coalition's urging, Congress came together to find a bipartisan solution, extending the low interest rate for an additional year.

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

Department of Education Rule to Rein in Abuse at For-Profit Colleges Doesn’t Go Far Enough

Yesterday, the US Department of Education took the first step in reining in abusive practices at for-profit colleges which pile deep debt onto their students in exchange for questionable credentials.  It issued a new rule that sets a standard for these schools: their programs have to ensure graduates can earn enough to pay off the hefty student loans they must carry to pay for their enrollment.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bipartisan FUTURE Act today, which permanently funds historically black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions, and streamlines financial aid.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

College is expensive, requiring many students to take out significant loans to afford an education. On top of that, students have to deal with the additional costs of textbooks, computers and other critical supplies. As students head back to school -- or to school for the first time -- U.S. PIRG Education Fund is releasing a money-saving guide to help them cut those additional costs.

News Release

U.S. PIRG and partners submit letters to DOJ opposing Cengage - McGraw Hill merger

News Release

Dozens of student governments and organizations urge DOJ to block the Cengage - McGraw Hill merger

News Release

Federal appeals court allows lawsuit to proceed under state consumer protection law.

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