Affordable Higher Education

A college degree is practically a necessity these days, not only for the individual student, but for the economic and social health of the country. But as states cut budgets, and grant aid has diminished, students are relying on loans to pay for college.

It has not always been this way. Twelve years ago only one-third of college graduates from four year public colleges needed to borrow money to attain a college degree and graduates who borrowed carried around $12,000 of debt on average. Today more than two-thirds of graduates have federal student loan debt and carry over $23,000 on average. The percentage of students with $25,000 worth of private student loan debt has increased, from 5% in 1996 to 24% in 2008. 

Relying on student loans to pay for college can have negative consequences. Too much loan debt causes qualified students to opt out of college completely; it causes current students to work too much and study less, and it causes borrowers who’ve graduated to opt out of socially valuable careers, and to delay life milestones like buying a home or getting married.

More and more students are moving beyond financial aid to finance their degrees with private student loans.  Private loans are much riskier, bringing applicants in with low advertised interest rates but spitting them out with higher interest rates and record debt levels.

A college degree must remain within reach for families of modest means, and affordable over the long term for the borrowers and parents in repayment. We work to increase student grant aid, make debt levels more manageable, and protect students as consumers from practices that contribute to educational debt.  

We need robust grant programs on a state and federal level, a simpler system of student aid that actively encourages student and parental participation, and stronger safeguards for student borrowers in repayment.  

Also, we can lower student debt by protecting student consumers. College students pay unjustifiably high amounts for college textbooks each year. And those who rely on credit and debit cards to help offset day to day costs of education, or to access their financial aid disbursements, can get slapped with penalty fees and terms that take advantage of them.

Issue updates

News Release | Higher Ed

576 Higher Education Advocates Urge Congress to Protect Student Aid

Yesterday, 576 higher education advocates representing students, institutions, educators, and consumers sent a letter to Congress urging them to protect critical federal student aid programs.


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Blog Post | Higher Ed

576 Higher Education Groups Urge Congress to Support Student Aid | Kaitlin Steen

Today, 576 organizations and institutions of higher education sent a letter to Congress asking them to protect federal student aid as they finish up FY17 appropriations and start working on FY18. U.S PIRG worked in a large coalition representing students, institutions, educators, advocates, and employers to draft and circulate the letter of support. The letter comes after calls by President Trump to cut the Pell grant reserve by a combined $5.2 billion in FY17 and FY18 and multiple proposals in Congress to cut a portion of the Pell grant reserve. 

Letter:

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Blog Post | Higher Ed

It's Time for a Debt-Free Guarantee | Ethan Senack

This blog originally appeared on HuffPost Education.


As a nation, we've long believed that education is a gateway to greater opportunity.

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Result | Higher Ed

Letter to Congress: Don't Raid Pell Funding

The undersigned organizations urge you to oppose any attempt to raid Pell Grant funding as you advance FY 2017 appropriations.

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Report | WashPIRG Students | Higher Ed, Hunger

Hunger on Campus

Food insecurity – the lack of reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food – is common at colleges and universities across the country, potentially undermining the educational success of untold thousands of students.

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