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

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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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Affordable College Textbook Act could save students millions on pricey books

Today, congressional leaders from both parties introduced legislation that could save American college students nearly a billion dollars on textbooks.

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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

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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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Big Loans, Bigger Problems

At the same time that we demand a college education, most students have little option but to take out loans to pay for it. Grants are not keeping pace with the rising cost of higher education, and students are becoming increasingly dependent on loans to pay for college. Students who make the important investment in higher education are graduating with alarming levels of debt.

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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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