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 | The State PIRGs | Higher Ed

Students to Congress: Don’t Double Student Debt Rates

Washington, D.C. – With the student loan interest rate about to double this July for almost 8 million loan borrowers, WashPIRG Students and coalition partners deliver over 130,000 letters to Congress urging a different plan.

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Groups target textbook prices to rein in college costs

A push to create free or inexpensive textbooks is gaining momentum as educators, philanthropists and policymakers nationwide search for new ways to rein in college costs.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Corporate, Democracy, Energy, Energy Service Corps, Higher Ed, Hunger, Oceans, Sustainability

Interns Get It Done! | Brian Moe

The last few weeks have brought some impressive victories for Washingtonians:  Seattle city council voted to ban plastic bags and today the President announced that Richard Cordray will be the director of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB will rein in the bad business practices of banks, lenders, and credit card companies.  This is a huge victory for students and consumers. 

Of course, we still have a lot of work to do to fix some big problems - stop global warming, end poverty, reform our democracy, and more. 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Corporate, Democracy, Energy, Energy Service Corps, Higher Ed, Oceans, Sustainability, Textbooks, Transit

We Couldn't Have Done it Without You | Brian Moe

Thank you, and everyone we’ve worked with, for being part of WashPIRG and helping to accomplish a lot in 2011.

This year, WashPIRG students:

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