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

Statement on Today’s Senate Vote on Student Loan Interest Rates

Today, a minority in the Senate succeeded in blocking legislation to reverse the doubling of interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans for students who need to borrow for college this fall. There’s still time to reverse the rate increase for incoming students. Returning the rate to 3.4 percent is a vital first step to avoid further raising the cost of college for more than seven million students this year.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Interest Rate Doubles for Seven Million Student Loan Borrowers

Due to Congressional inaction, the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans doubled today from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. The change will affect seven million students nationwide, and in total the rate increase will hike the cost of students' loans by $7 billion. However, because most new student loans are issued in August and September, Congress can still pass a retroactive fix.  

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Interest Rates for 33,833 Student Loan Borrowers in Maine Set to Double on July 1

According to an issue brief released today by U.S. PIRG, the upcoming increase in student loan interest rates would hike the cost of Maine students’ loans by $31 million. That translates into a $910 increase in debt per student, per loan.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Student Loan Debt in Maine

Without a new plan from Congress, on July 1 the interest rate on subsidized Stafford student loans will double, from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. In Maine, 33,883 federal student loan borrowers will be impacted if the rate doubles.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Students’ Statement in Support of the Student Loan Affordability Act of 2013

Today, Senators Harry Reid, Tom Harkin, Patty Murray, and Jack Reed introduced the Student Loan Affordability Act of 2013. This bill creates a workable solution to keep student loan interest rates low until 2015 while Congress seeks to reauthorize the Higher Education Act and reach a comprehensive solution to the student loan crisis that is good for students.

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Media Hit | Higher Ed

Average student loan debt rises to $26,600 for class of 2011

"Increasing student debt in a weak economy can be a knock-out blow to many considering college," said Rich Williams, higher education advocate with U.S. Public Interest Research Group, which advocates for students. "As our economy is recovering, lawmakers must send every signal that college is a good investment. "
 

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

As Fall Financial Aid is Disbursed, Senator Issues Urgent Warning to Students Using Campus Debit Cards

Senator Sherrod Brown (OH), Chairman of the Senate Banking Subcommittee on Financial Institution and Consumer Protection, issued an urgent warning to students receiving financial aid in the next two weeks that predatory bank fees can quickly cut into their college money.

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Media Hit | Higher Ed

Wall Street Journal: Prepaid Cards Go to School

For some students, a prepaid card offered through a college may be the fastest way to receive student-loan funds, says Rich Williams, higher education advocate with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. But the cards can carry fees that eat into your balance, says Mr. Williams, including ones for buying or reloading the card and withdrawing money from ATMs.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

CFPB Issues Consumer Advisory on Campus Debit Cards, Asks for Stories

Washington, D.C. – The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau today issued a consumer advisory on its blog providing tips for students expecting scholarships and loans onto “what appears to be – a school-endorsed debit card.” The blog post comes just a day after the FDIC, a bank regulator, fined the largest campus debit card provider, Higher One, for unfair and unsafe practices.  The bureau is also asking consumers to share their experiences and provides a tool to submit complaints. 

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