Affordable Higher Education

Making student loan programs more affordable and efficient.

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

Student Government Leaders Unite in Call for Federal Open Textbook Grant Program

Student government leaders of the undersigned colleges and universities write to Congress on the urgent need to address the skyrocketing price of textbooks, and a request to create a national open textbook pilot grants program in the FY18 appropriations bill.

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News Release | Textbooks

In fight for more affordable education, look to core classes

WASHINGTON, DC- Earlier today, the Student PIRGs released a new report investigating high textbook prices for common courses at schools across the country. Entitled Open 101: an Action Plan for Affordable Textbooks, the report contains recommendations that, if enacted, could save students billions of dollars.

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Report | Textbooks

Open 101: An Action Plan for Affordable Textbooks

This new report investigates high textbook prices for common courses at schools across the country and contains recommendations that, if enacted, could save students billions of dollars.

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Media Hit | Higher Ed

Durbin reintroduces a bill to cut costs on books for college students

Joined by Senators Al Franken (D-MN) and Angus King (I-ME), Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin reintroduced a bill titled “Affordable College Textbook Act” to “expand the use of open college textbooks" with PIRG Higher Education Advocate Kaitlyn Vitez.

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