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

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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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Recommendations for Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act

The state PIRGs have approached proposals for Reauthorization of the HEA from the perspective of making college affordable for students: our first series of policy proposals seek to assist students while they are in school, while our second series of proposals intend to deal with the problems too many student borrowers face after they leave school. In addition, we have included a section on the importance of strengthening consumer rights for students, as students are too often the prey of an aggressive and complex marketplace.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Lending A Hand

The student loan industry, a $40 billion dollar-a-year market, is dominated by federally subsidized lenders. These lenders receive millions each year in subsidies from the federal government in addition to income from loan interest payments. This report documents the political spending of the five largest holders of federally subsidized student loans, namely Sallie Mae, the Student Loan Corporation of Citibank (a subsidiary of Citigroup), First Union National Bank, Wells Fargo Education Financial Services, and the National Education Loan Network (Nelnet).

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

At What Cost?

As college costs rise many students are turning to working long hours to finance their education. Nearly half of all full-time working students are working enough hours to hurt their academic achievement and the overall quality of their education. At the same time the majority of these students (63%) reported that they would not be able to attend college if they did not work.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

The Burden Of Borrowing

As college costs continue to swell, students are increasingly shouldering high levels of debt to pay for a college education. Thirty-nine percent (39%) of student borrowers now graduate with unmanageable levels of debt, meaning that their monthly payments are more than 8% of their monthly incomes. According to new data from the Department of Education’s National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), not only are the majority of students turning to loans to finance college, but debt levels are also escalating.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG

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.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

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.

News Release

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

News Release

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

News Release

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

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