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 the combination of shrinking state budgets and stagnant grant aid has led to an increased reliance on student loans to pay for college. Just 12 years ago only one-third of college graduates from four year public colleges needed to borrow money to attain a college degree, and now more than two-thirds of graduates have federal student loan debt. Twelve years ago, graduates who borrowed carried around $12,000 of debt on average, and now they carry over $23,000 on average. Worse, the percentage of students with $25,000 worth of private student loan debt has increased, from 5 percent in 1996 to 24 percent 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. Students who take up private student loans to defray costs face riskier terms and conditions in repayment.

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. In response, USPIRG works 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

The Campus Debit Card Trap

Banks and other financial firms are taking advantage of a variety of opportunities to form partnerships with colleges and universities to produce campus student ID cards and to offer student aid disbursements on debit or prepaid cards. In addition to on-campus services, such as student ID functions offered on the card, some cards offer traditional debit card services linked to bank accounts; other cards provide additional reloadable prepaid card functions. The disbursement of financial aid and university refunds is the most significant partnership identified.

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Blog Post | Higher Ed

There is no 'A' for effort

Here's my statement on the failure to move debate forward on a bill to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling this July:

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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 | Higher Ed

Senators Block Bill to Keep Student Loan Interest Rates From Doubling On July 1

“The bottom line is that this is important to future graduates and their families, it is a top concern among students, and has support from across the political spectrum."

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Higher Ed, Student Debt

The New Student Battle Cry: Don't Double My Rate!

During a speech Tuesday at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, President Obama led students in the chant "Don't Double My Rate!" Then, he flew to University of Colorado in Boulder to deliver the same message to Congress and was at the University of Iowa on Wednesday.

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