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

Fall Update: Meeting Student Basic Needs During COVID-19 | Zack Szlezinger

The COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting campuses nationwide. Here are a few of the ways that institutions are stepping up to meet students’ basic needs during the new term

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News Release | CALPIRG Students | Higher Ed

Statement: Landmark Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights passes key hurdle

Passage in California State Senate committee leaves bill poised to become law

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News Release | Florida PIRG Students | Higher Ed

Statement: Florida state budget defunds online learning programs, hurting students during pandemic

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

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | COVID-19, Higher Ed

Student groups outline COVID-19 higher ed funding needs

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

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

The college course materials market is broken

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.

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

The Campus Credit Card Trap 2008

This study is an in-person survey of a diverse sample of over 1500 students, primarily single undergraduates, at 40 large and small schools and universities in 14 states around the country conducted between October 2007 and February 2008. It analyzes how students pay for their education, how many use and how they use their credit cards and, finally, their attitudes toward credit card marketing on campus and whether or not they support principles to rein in credit card marketing on campus.

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Report | MASSPIRG | Higher Ed

Exposing the Textbook Industry

MASSPIRG conducted a survey of 287 professors from a variety of disciplines at Massachusetts colleges and universities over the fall semester of 2006 to get their views on textbook industry practices that drive up prices.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Cutting Interest Rates, Lowering Student Debt 2007

Some in Congress have proposed lowering student loan interest rates to reduce the debt burden facing students and families.  This report addresses one specific proposal to cut interest rates on undergraduate subsidized Stafford student loans in half, from 6.8% to 3.4%, over a period of five years.

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

Student Debt and Consumer Costs in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Area

Student loan debt is rising faster than the cost of living or health care costs. Between 1993 and 2004, the average debt for college graduates with loans increased by 107% to $19,200. At the same time, in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, the cost of living increased by 35%, and health care costs (including insurance, drugs and medical care) increased by 58%.

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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 | Higher Ed

Student Loan Forgiveness: Available for Many, Used by Few | Ethan Senack

More than 33 million Americans are eligible for student loan forgiveness, but only a tiny fraction to advantage of the program.

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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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