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

Paying Back, Not Giving Back

This report looks at the issue of unmanageable debt as it pertains to college graduates entering two critical public service careers: teaching and social work. Given increasing dependence on student loans, borrowers graduating from four-year schools and working in these two public service careers often carry more debt than they can manage. The prospect of burdensome debt likely deters skilled and dedicated college graduates from entering and staying in important careers educating our nation’s children and helping the country’s most vulnerable populations.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

College Students Faced More than $31 Billion in Unmet Financial Need in 2003-2004

The report finds that public college students from a family with a household income of $62,240 or less face an average of $3,986 a year in unmet need. On average public college students from families with a household income of $34,288 or less fare even worse, facing an average of $4,990 a year in unmet need.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Easy Money

Congress has the opportunity this year to increase student aid funding by billions of dollars at no additional cost to taxpayers. Bipartisan legislation is pending in Congress that would increase federal student aid for those colleges and universities that utilize the more economically efficient of the two federal student loan programs. The Student Aid Reward (STAR) Act, introduced in March 2005, would increase student aid funding by redirecting the subsidies currently going to student loan companies to needy students.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Rip-off 101: 2nd Edition

The State PIRGs conducted a survey of the most widely purchased textbooks at 59 colleges and universities across the country. Overall, the survey uncovered evidence that textbook prices are a significant part of college costs, that textbook prices are rising at a fast pace, and that publishers use a variety of tactics to inflate the cost of textbooks. In addition, we found that textbook publishers increase textbook prices faster than the rate of inflation between editions and charge American students more for the same books than students in other countries. 

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Private Loans: Who's Borrowing and Why?

In recent years, increases in private education loan borrowing, in which students borrow outside of the federal loan programs, have sparked concerns within the higher education community.

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