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

How students are engaging textbook companies in a duel against high prices, and winning

Before entering the classroom of an intro-level economics course, students get a real-life experience with the subject — the required textbook costs $290 on Amazon.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Student PIRGs | Higher Ed, Textbooks

Fixing the Broken Textbook Market

This study demonstrates that despite recent steps forward in the marketplace, high textbook costs will continue to be a problem for students unless the cost of high-priced, new editions of college textbooks comes down.

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News Release | Higher Ed, Student Debt

STUDENTS CALL FOR SENATE TO REJECT STUDENT LOAN DEAL

Today, college students spoke out to urge Senators to reject the pending student loan deal, which may come up for a vote in the Senate as early as this afternoon.   

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News Release | Higher Ed

President Signs Bill Preventing Student Loan Interest Rates from Doubling

Students can breathe a sigh of relief today. At least for the next year, student strapped with debt will get a temporary reprieve from doubling interest rates on their loans borrowed next year.

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Blog Post | Higher Ed, Student Debt

Victory for Students. | WashPIRG Students

We did it.

Over 7 million students will save an average of $1,000 in loan repayments, helping us become the next generation of teachers, doctors, and innovators.

Friday, in a strong display of bi-partisan support, Congress voted to stop student loan interest rates from doubling. This is great news for students who now graduate with an average of $25,000 in student debt, twice as much as a decade ago. Without Congressional action, the interest rate would have doubled from 3.4% to 6.8% on July 1st.

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