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

News Release | Higher Ed

70+ Student Leaders Call On Congress to Renew Open Textbook Pilot

As Congress finalizes its FY19 budget, student leaders call on their senators and representatives to renew funding for last years' Open Textbook Pilot, which has the potential to save students more than $50 million.

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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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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

FY18 Open Textbooks Program Appropriation an Important Step for College Students

Statement by Kaitlyn Vitez, higher education advocate for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, on the inclusion of an open textbook program appropriation in the FY18 omnibus budget just introduced in Congress.

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News Release | The Student PIRGs | Higher Ed

Release of New Report: Open 101

Earlier today, the US Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) released a new report, investigating those high textbook prices for common courses at schools across the country. Entitled Open 101: an Action Plan for Affordable Textbooks, the report contains recommendations that, if enacted, could save students billions of dollars by ensuring the materials that students buy for their general education classes is free instead.

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News Release | Higher Ed

New Bill Could Save Students Millions In Textbook Costs

Statement from Kaitlyn Vitez, Higher Education Advocate, on action by U.S. Senators to address the rising costs of textbooks, proposing a new bill to create a grant program to promote free textbooks at colleges across the country.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Student Group Releases New Report on Textbook Prices

Earlier today, U.S. PIRG released a new report investigating the real impact of high textbook prices on today’s students. The report, titled “Covering the Cost,” is based on a survey of nearly 5,000 students from 132 institutions.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection, Higher Ed

U.S. PIRG lauds consumer guide for safe bank accounts on campus

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group applauds the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) release of a Safe Student Account Toolkit for campus administrators, released after a several-year investigation into the unavoidable and unusual fees that students can be charged through campus bank accounts, particularly through the financial aid disbursement.

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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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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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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

New guide will help students cut costs on textbooks, computers and more

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.

News Release

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

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