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 | 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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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 | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Open Textbooks Pilot renewed, saving college students up to $50 million

 

Today, Congress set aside $5 million to renew the Open Textbook Pilot program for FY19, which gives grants to colleges and universities to promote adoption of free and open textbooks by professors. The program could save students up to $50 million.

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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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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 | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Higher Ed

USPIRG Statement on Department of Education rule on Preemption of student loan servicing

Now that the U.S. Department of Education has said that state efforts to stop unfair and deceptive actions by federal student loan servicers are pre-empted by weaker federal law, student loan borrowers who have been misled by the financial firms servicing their student loans have lost access to strong consumer protections in the states. The Education Department's interpretation clears the path for predatory lenders and institutions to continue taking advantage of students seeking higher education. 

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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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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Rip-off 101: 2nd Edition

The State PIRGs conducted a survey of the most widely purchased textbooks at 59 colleges and universities across the country. Overall, the survey uncovered evidence that textbook prices are a significant part of college costs, that textbook prices are rising at a fast pace, and that publishers use a variety of tactics to inflate the cost of textbooks. In addition, we found that textbook publishers increase textbook prices faster than the rate of inflation between editions and charge American students more for the same books than students in other countries. 

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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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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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