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 Education Fund | Higher Ed

Fixing the Broken Textbook Market, Second Edition

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

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

Private lenders announce they’ll suspend student loan payments

 

State leaders secure relief to cover most Americans with student loans

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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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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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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 | Consumer Tips, Consumer Protection, Higher Ed

College students can save hundreds as they head back to school

College is expensive, requiring many students to take out significant loans to afford an education. On top of that, students have to deal with the additional costs of textbooks, computers and other critical supplies. As students head back to school -- or to school for the first time -- U.S. PIRG Education Fund is releasing a money-saving guide to help them cut those additional costs.

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News Release | Higher Ed

Major textbook publisher merger will cost students

U.S. PIRG and partners submit letters to DOJ opposing Cengage - McGraw Hill merger

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News Release | Higher Ed

Students to DOJ: major textbook publisher merger will hurt students

Dozens of student governments and organizations urge DOJ to block the Cengage - McGraw Hill merger

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News Release | Higher Ed

U.S. PIRG applauds court decision protecting student loan borrowers

Federal appeals court allows lawsuit to proceed under state consumer protection law.

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News Release | Higher Ed

Statement on Cengage-McGraw-Hill merger announcement

Two of the biggest textbook publishers announce controversial plan to merge, consolidating power in a broken marketplace.

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

Cutting Interest Rates, Lowering Student Debt

In 21st century America, a college education is critical for individual success and the strength of our nation. Higher education is associated with better health, greater wealth and more vibrant civic participation, as well national economic competitiveness in today’s global environment. As the need for a college degree has grown, however, so has the cost of obtaining that education. The result is increased reliance on loans to pay for college.

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Blog Post | Higher Ed

“You might want to tell your instructors about this:” students as sales reps? | Kaitlyn Vitez

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the education community has worried about how student personal and behavioral data gathered from access codes will be (mis)used for. Here's one example.

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Blog Post | Higher Ed

FY18 Open Textbooks Program Appropriation: the next step toward textbook affordability | Kaitlyn Vitez

“A college degree is essential these days, but I can’t get it if I don’t have the books I need to actually succeed in class,” Walter Dodson, a student at the University of Connecticut at Storrs, told me. “If you’re shocked at how expensive college is right now, I can’t imagine how ridiculous it will be in twenty years.”

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Blog Post | Higher Ed

Consumer, Student Education Groups Defend CFPB To Congress | Chris Lindstrom

Nearly 60 student, consumer, and education groups signed on to this letter that was sent up to the Hill on Monday, February 13.  It calls for the CFPB to remain a strong, independent agency, so it can protect student loan borrowers (and taxpayers) from predatory lending tactics.

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Blog Post | Higher Ed

Senate Banking Committee On Student Loans and Campus Cards | Ed Mierzwinski

Last week the U.S. Senate Banking Committee heard recommendations on campus banking and student loan issues from student advocates, including U.S. PIRG Higher Education Program Director Christine Lindstrom. The hearing also featured a spirited exchange between Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) and a bank witness concerning the failure of private student lenders to give student-consumers more options to re-finance or defer their loans, including in cases of extreme undue hardship, such as when the borrower dies suddenly.

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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

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

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

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.

Blog Post

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.

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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