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

Students React to President's Budget Proposal on Student Loans

While the President’s budget keeps rates low in the near term, we’re disappointed that it risks sky-high interest rates in the long term. The structure of the proposal switches student loan interest rates from a fixed rate to a rate that varies with the market, allowing students to take advantage of temporarily low rates, but offers no protection for students when rates inevitably begin to climb.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Federal Government Makes Billions from Student Loan Borrowers Yearly

Today, a coalition of youth and student groups released an issue brief demonstrating that the federal government is making billions in revenue through the federal student loan program. The report projects that student loans will generate over $36 billion in revenue in 2013, in part because of a scheduled July 1 doubling of Stafford loan interest rates.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Issue Brief: Don't Double Our Rates

Congress should be helping to keep college affordable, not making it more expensive for student loan borrowers to pay for college.

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Media Hit | Higher Ed

New York Times: Student Loan Rate Set to Rise, Despite Lack of Support

“Higher education loans are meant to subsidize the cost of higher education, not profit from them, especially at a time when students are facing record debt,” said Ethan Senack, the higher education advocate at the United States Public Interest Research Group.

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Blog Post | Higher Ed

Students to Congress: Don’t Double Our Rates | Chris Lindstrom

Earlier this week, the Education and Workforce Committee in the U.S. House held a hearing to purportedly “strengthen” the federal student loan program. Sadly, the proposals put forth by leaders in the hearing do anything but help solve the problem of high cost federal student loans. What the hearing did do was serve as a grave reminder that on July 1, student loan interest rates on subsidized Stafford student loans will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent—driving up the cost of higher education for 8 million students by $1,000 per loan.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Students To Congress: Don’t Double Student Debt Rates

Washington, D.C. – With the student loan interest rate about to double this July for almost 8 million loan borrowers, US PIRG and coalition partners deliver over 130,000 letters to Congress urging a different plan.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

College Affordability a Priority in Obama’s Budget

With the student loan interest rate about to double this July, President Obama proposed to halt the rate hike in his FY 2012 budget released today. “In this economy, the last thing we should do is double the interest rates on student loans.  Graduates already face high debt levels made worse by an uncertain job market,” said Rich Williams, Higher Education Advocate for US PIRG.  “Students and families need what the President offers in this budget, which is to keep interest rates low and provide more Pell Grant funding for students.”

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

SOTU: Obama Pushes Low Interest Rates, More Work-Study

In the annual State of the Union Address, President Obama proposed measures to bring relief to almost 8 million students who will see their student loan interest rates double on new loans starting July 1st, 2012.

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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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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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