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

CFPB Issues Consumer Advisory on Campus Debit Cards, Asks for Stories

Washington, D.C. – The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau today issued a consumer advisory on its blog providing tips for students expecting scholarships and loans onto “what appears to be – a school-endorsed debit card.” The blog post comes just a day after the FDIC, a bank regulator, fined the largest campus debit card provider, Higher One, for unfair and unsafe practices.  The bureau is also asking consumers to share their experiences and provides a tool to submit complaints. 

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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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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 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 | Higher Ed

New in The Huffington Post: Ryan's Budget Is A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing, Preying On Student Aid

Chairman Ryan's budget is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Preying upon genuine concern for our fiscal future, this budget takes direct aim at student aid programs that help job-seekers get the skills, training, and credentials they need to re-enter the recovering workforce.

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News Release | Florida PIRG Students

Gov. DeSantis vetoes programs students and educators rely on during COVID-19

News Release | U.S. PIRG

A new coalition of student-lead associations and advocacy groups set out priorities for the next coronavirus response package and federal budget.

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

The U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Student PIRGs asked students how the high cost of college course materials affects them. 

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

In a survey this past fall, the USPIRG Education Fund and the Student PIRGs asked college students how the high cost of course materials affects them. As colleges shift to increased use of costly access codes to facilitate remote learning during COVID-19, the risks are higher than ever that students will be priced out of participating in class.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

 

State leaders secure relief to cover most Americans with student loans

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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