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

New Report Identifies Most Troublesome Private Lenders to Students

WASHINGTON – Thousands of American students are using the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) public Consumer Complaints Database to settle disputes about private student loans, according to a new report from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund.

Sallie Mae, the student lending giant, generated the most private student loan complaints nationally, and ranked first or tied for first in every single state. Student loan borrowers in the U.S. carry $24,803 on average in total student loan debt.

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Blog Post | Higher Ed

Student Loan Forgiveness: Available for Many, Used by Few | Ethan Senack

More than 33 million Americans are eligible for student loan forgiveness, but only a tiny fraction to advantage of the program.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

JPMorgan Shouldn’t Get Tax Break for “London Whale” Settlement

JPMorgan could get a $35 million tax deduction from its $100 million settlement with Commodity Futures Trading Commission unless the regulator explicitly forbids it.

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Blog Post | Democracy

The People Strike Back

On October 8, as the Supreme Court debated lifting the aggregate limit on campaign contributions, a growing democracy movement was out in full force in front of the Court and in cities across the country.

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Blog Post | Budget, Tax

Webinar for State Officials on Spending Transparency | Phineas Baxandall

U.S. PIRG Education Fund conducted a webinar with officials from 31 states on ways to improve online spending transparency.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Federal Government Makes Billions from Student Loan Borrowers Yearly

Today, a coalition of youth and student groups released an issue brief demonstrating that the federal government is making billions in revenue through the federal student loan program. The report projects that student loans will generate over $36 billion in revenue in 2013, in part because of a scheduled July 1 doubling of Stafford loan interest rates.

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Media Hit | Higher Ed

New York Times: Student Loan Rate Set to Rise, Despite Lack of Support

“Higher education loans are meant to subsidize the cost of higher education, not profit from them, especially at a time when students are facing record debt,” said Ethan Senack, the higher education advocate at the United States Public Interest Research Group.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

CFPB Ends Kickbacks by Mortgage Insurers

U.S. PIRG applauds CFPB’s enforcement action, including over $15 million in total penalties, against four mortgage insurers to end the practice of giving kickbacks to mortgage companies to get their business.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Tax

Offshore Tax Havens Cost Average Taxpayer $1,026 a Year, Small Businesses $3,067

With Tax Day approaching, it’s a good time to be reminded of where our tax dollars are going. U.S. PIRG released a new study which revealed that the average taxpayer in 2012 would have to shoulder an extra $1,026 in taxes to make up for the revenue lost due to the use of offshore tax havens by corporations and wealthy individuals. The report also found that the average small business would have to pay $3,067 to cover the cost of offshore tax dodging by large corporations.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Transportation

Consider ASCE Report Card in Light of Stimulus Repairs and Reduced Driving

Statement by Phineas Baxandall, U.S. PIRG Senior Analyst, explaining how reactions American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) report card for America’s infrastructure should be interpreted in light of: (1) the short-term federal assistance from stimulus funds that have since expired; and (2) a persistent trend by Americans toward driving less.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Needless Risk

Across the country, petroleum refineries, chemical plants and other industrial facilities use and store large amounts of hazardous chemicals that, if subject to an accident or attack, would release dangerous toxins.  Such releases could injure or kill thousands of people that live in communities in close proximity to these facilities. Petroleum refineries stand as a stark example of the unnecessary risk posed by such facilities in the event of an attack or accident as well as the opportunity to mitigate this risk by using safer alternatives to toxic chemicals.

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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 Education Fund | Public Health

Raising Risk

Although genetically engineered crops are still poorly understood, corporations and universities are growing them experimentally in the open environment with little oversight and public notification. Contrary to assertions made by proponents of the technology, genetic engineering is not precise. Scientists cannot control where the gene is inserted into the host’s genetic code, nor guarantee stable expression of the gene in the new genetically engineered organism.

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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 Education Fund | Democracy

Look Who's Not Coming to Washington

Large contributions made by a small fraction of Americans unduly influence who runs for office and who wins elections in the United States.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

B of A tests new fees, CFPB asks for your checking account complaints | Ed Mierzwinski

Reporters are calling about BofA's proposed new checking account fees, "Ed, what does it mean?" Meanwhile the CFPB says checking accounts can be "complex and confusing" and announced it is now  ready and waiting for your checking account complaints. Find out more.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Funding Cuts for Testing of Deadly Bacteria in Fresh Produce | Nasima Hossain

The USDA budget would eliminate the nation’s only program that regularly tests fruits and vegetables for deadly pathogens. Cutting this program will leave public health officials without a crucial tool used to investigate deadly foodborne illnesses and to speed up recalls of dangerous fresh produce.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

WH urges privacy rights, industry promises "Do Not Track Sometimes" while states investigate Google | Ed Mierzwinski

As web giants amass more and more information about consumers for behavioral targeting and even "social discrimination" -- which can include differential pricing for the same product or the use of web tracking data and falsely-flagged websites to promote certain brandname drug use -- the White House has called for a privacy bill of rights. Companies and powerful industry lobbies seeking to keep those rights weak have rolled out their own "Do Not Track Sometimes" button. Meanwhile bi-partisan groups of Congressional privacy hawks and, now, state attorneys general have demanded information from Google about its slippery, ever-changing privacy policies and whether Googleis in compliance with settlements it has already agreed to.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Today, CFPB to announce overdraft fee investigation, unveil "penalty box" disclosure, possibly end $39 lattes. | Ed Mierzwinski

At a news conference in NYC today, Director Richard Cordray of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will announce a major investigation of bank overdraft fee practices and propose a model "penalty box" disclosure to appear on bank statements. The investigation could end the $39 latte-- $4 bucks for the coffee, $35 for the debit card overdraft fee.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Consumer news update, some stories I've been following | Ed Mierzwinski

Just a summary of some of what I think are the important consumer news stories of the last week or so, in case you missed any of them.

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Priority Action

The overuse of antibiotics on factory farms is threatening these lifesaving antibiotics. Call on the Obama administration to put an end to the worst practices. 

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