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

Congress Must Keep Their Eye on the Prize

Statement of Rich Williams, U.S. PIRG Higher Education Advocate, on the upcoming vote on H.R. 4628: "Unless a new plan is adopted by Congress, interest rates on subsidized student loans for nearly 7.5 million students will double on July 1st."

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

The Cost of College Will Soar if Interest Rates Allowed to Double

The loans distributed by the U.S. Department of Education currently hold an interest rate of 3.4 percent. But that rate is set to double if Congress fails to act by July 1, 2012. If that occurs, millions of students will see their interest rates soar to 6.8 percent on the new loans they take in the next year thereby causing a steep rise in their loan burden and effectively increasing the cost of attaining a college degree.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

President calls for extending lower interests on student loans to combat rising debt burden

Statement of Rich Williams, Higher Education Advocate for U.S. PIRG, on the President’s call for extending lower interests on student loans to combat rising debt burden.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Romney Endorses Low Interest Rate for Student Loans

Today presidential candidate and Republican Mitt Romney endorsed an extension of the low student loan interest rate for subsidized Stafford student loan borrowers. On July 1, the low 3.4 percent rate will double to 6.8 percent, unless Congress intervenes. Close to 8 million students will be negatively impacted.

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Media Hit | Higher Ed

New York Times: Student Loan Interest Rates Loom as Political Battle

Rich Williams, the higher education advocate for U.S. Public Interest Research Group, said he thought about 14 moderate Republican senators might support the effort to keep the interest rates down. “This should be a bipartisan issue,” he said. “It’s something everyone gets.”

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

Obama Announces Initiatives to Ease Student Loan Debt

Tomorrow, President Obama will announce a series of initiatives that will reduce the burden of student loan debt that millions experience after graduation.

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

Department of Education Rule to Rein in Abuse at For-Profit Colleges Doesn’t Go Far Enough

Yesterday, the US Department of Education took the first step in reining in abusive practices at for-profit colleges which pile deep debt onto their students in exchange for questionable credentials.  It issued a new rule that sets a standard for these schools: their programs have to ensure graduates can earn enough to pay off the hefty student loans they must carry to pay for their enrollment.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

New in The Huffington Post: Ryan's Budget Is A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing, Preying On Student Aid

Chairman Ryan's budget is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Preying upon genuine concern for our fiscal future, this budget takes direct aim at student aid programs that help job-seekers get the skills, training, and credentials they need to re-enter the recovering workforce.

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