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

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

Where Students Stand To Lose the Most if Federal Loan Rates Double

U.S. PIRG released data today detailing the colleges and universities across the country where students would be the most adversely impacted by the looming rate hike on Subsidized Stafford student loans.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Statement from Student and Youth Groups on Rep. Kline’s Student Loan Proposal

Yesterday, Rep. Kline introduced a student loan reform package, H.R. 1911, which pegs student loan interest rates to the market, moving away from the fixed rates that are set by Congress. Under this plan, student debt levels will increase. While we are pleased that the proposal includes a cap on interest rates, a critical feature to indicate to borrowers that their loans will not rise past certain limits, the interest rates on some loans could still rise to double digits - far too high.  

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Representatives Bass and Courtney Speak on Legislative Solutions to Student Debt Crisis

U.S. Representatives Joe Courtney (CT) and Karen Bass (CA) were joined today by student advocacy groups to highlight legislative solutions to rein in student loan debt. One year ago today, the United States' total amount of student debt crossed the $1 trillion mark.

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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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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Ryan Budget Devastating to Pell, Windfall for Special Interests

Chairman Ryan's proposal recommends slashing Pell Grants which help more than 9 million students pay for college at a time of rising college costs, tight family finances and a job market that increasingly requires post-secondary education.

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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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