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

Blog Post | COVID-19, Higher Ed

COVID-19 college reopening scorecard | Zack Szlezinger

Colleges all over the country have decided to open their doors to students, but reopening remains unsafe in nearly all states.

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Blog Post | Higher Ed

College students have been left behind. What’s the plan to support them?

Unnecessary costs for course materials, such as paying for access codes, are making a bad situation worse. 

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Blog Post | Higher Ed

The 2020 Open Textbook Pilot: why it matters and how to apply | Cailyn Nagle

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.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Tips, COVID-19, Higher Ed

Safe Travel Information for College Students and Parents

As parents and students make trips across the country to return to college, you are probably wondering how to do so safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. This guide will outline some of the safer options.

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Blog Post | Consumer Tips, COVID-19, Higher Ed

Tips on what to pack for college during the COVID-19 pandemic

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.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Education Department offers students much-needed relief, but additional action necessary

President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced today that the Education Department would allow federal student loan borrowers to forgo payments for 60 days without penalty.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

U.S. PIRG urges Congress to freeze student loan repayment during coronavirus outbreak

Freezing student loan payments for the duration of the pandemic will allow Americans to keep food on the table and stay safe. Congress needs to act swiftly to make it financially possible for people to do the right thing and stay home.

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

Deals with publishers could make college textbooks more expensive

A new report reveals insufficient or disappearing discounts, structures designed to force students into the program, and missing information. This all leaves students, professors, and college administrators in the lurch.

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News Release | Higher Ed

Students call for open access to publicly funded research

USPIRG and student leaders urge President to commit to open access

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

U.S. PIRG praises passage of FAFSA simplification bill

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.

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Pages

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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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Higher Ed

The Campus Debit Card Trap

Banks and other financial firms are taking advantage of a variety of opportunities to form partnerships with colleges and universities to produce campus student ID cards and to offer student aid disbursements on debit or prepaid cards. In addition to on-campus services, such as student ID functions offered on the card, some cards offer traditional debit card services linked to bank accounts; other cards provide additional reloadable prepaid card functions. The disbursement of financial aid and university refunds is the most significant partnership identified.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

The Cost of College Will Soar if Interest Rates Allowed to Double

The loans distributed by the U.S. Department of Education currently hold an interest rate of 3.4 percent. But that rate is set to double if Congress fails to act by July 1, 2012. If that occurs, millions of students will see their interest rates soar to 6.8 percent on the new loans they take in the next year thereby causing a steep rise in their loan burden and effectively increasing the cost of attaining a college degree.

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Report | CALPIRG | Higher Ed

Working Too Hard to Make the Grade

Our commitment to equity and our future economic success require that we make higher education accessible to all Californians, and that our students succeed academically and graduate. The community college system plays a key role in California’s ability to meet these goals, educating six out of every ten college students in the state and opening their doors to students of every type. It is therefore deeply concerning that, of all community college students who intend to complete an associate’s degree, or transfer to a four-year school, only 24 percent achieve their goal within six years.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Higher Ed

Obama's Budget: Supporting Students, Not Banks

To help struggling students and families, President Obama has proposed a significant increase to the Pell grant for 2010-2011. The boost will be paid for by cutting excessive student lender subsidies out of the student loan programs and reinvesting that money instead in student aid. A report by the U.S. PIRG Higher Education Project estimates the impact of transferring $5 billion in student lender bank subsidies to Pell Grant recipients in each state.

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Pages

Blog Post | Higher Ed

Free resources without an expiration date | Cailyn Nagle

Getting educators and students the course materials they need during COVID-19

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Blog Post | Higher Ed

Meeting student basic needs during COVID-19 | Kaitlyn Vitez

Thousands of college campuses are shutting down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Here's how campus administrators can serve vulnerable students as the crisis continues. 

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Blog Post | Higher Ed

Who is watching out for students? | Kaitlyn Vitez

The Department of Education and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau need to act on campus debit cards

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Blog Post | Food, Higher Ed

U.S. PIRG Zero Hunger Campaign: Fall Semester in Review

U.S.PIRG believes that no one should go hungry when we produce more than enough food already to feed everyone, and waste 40% of it. So, together with dozens of campuses with student PIRG chapters around the country we launched our Zero Hunger campaign last year to end hunger. 

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Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG; Student PIRGs

The Biden administration released its $1.8 trillion American Families Plan Wednesday with investments ranging from paid family leave and childcare to higher education. One key element to the plan is an $85 billion increase to the Pell Grant, a need-based financial aid program for low and middle income students.

News Release

New Secretary Cardona to forgive loans for some borrowers whose schools shut down

Blog Post

Some student loan servicers take advantage of borrowers through unfair, predatory and even illegal lending methods. It’s a problem MASSPIRG and our partners have been working to solve for years — and our efforts were rewarded this past January, when the Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights was passed by the Legislature and then signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker. Nearly 1 million student borrowers across the commonwealth now have the protections they deserve against deceptive lending practices.

Blog Post

A survey on college textbook affordability during COVID-19.

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

 COVID-19 has raised the barriers students face both financially and technologically to access course materials, even if it has not necessarily made course materials more expensive. Students who lost jobs due to the pandemic or who lacked reliable internet access were hardest hit by course materials costs. These problems will persist past the public health crisis without increased funding and implementing long term policies that prioritize access and affordability.

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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