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 | Higher Ed

Meeting student basic needs during COVID-19 | Kaitlyn Vitez

Thousands of college campuses are shutting down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Here's how campus administrators can serve vulnerable students as the crisis continues. 

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Higher Ed

Automatic textbooks billing: an offer students can't refuse?

New report says deals with publishers could make college textbooks more expensive

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

Deals with publishers could make college textbooks more expensive

A new report reveals insufficient or disappearing discounts, structures designed to force students into the program, and missing information. This all leaves students, professors, and college administrators in the lurch.

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Blog Post | Higher Ed

Who is watching out for students? | Kaitlyn Vitez

The Department of Education and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau need to act on campus debit cards

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News Release | Higher Ed

Students call for open access to publicly funded research

USPIRG and student leaders urge President to commit to open access

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Pages

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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Pages

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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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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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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