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

Media Hit | Higher Ed, Textbooks

Putting a Dent in College Costs With Open-Source Textbooks

College students could save an average of $128 a course if traditional textbooks were replaced with free or low-cost “open-source” electronic versions, a new report finds.

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News Release | Student PIRGs | Higher Ed, Textbooks

REPORT: Open Textbooks: The Billion-Dollar Solution

A report released today by the Student PIRGs shows that an alternative textbook model called open textbooks could save undergraduate students more than a billion dollar a year.

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Blog Post | Higher Ed

Tell the Obama Administration Your Student Debt Story | CALPIRG

The US Department of Education is considering changes to its rules that would make student loan repayment plans more generous.  

Next week at a public hearing in Anaheim, CALPIRG student board members will be testifying in support of changes to make loans more affordable for student  borrowers.

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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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Resource | Higher Ed

Fixing Broken Textbooks

Summary

 

The cost of college textbooks has skyrocketed in recent years. To students and families already struggling to afford high tuition and fees, an additional $1,200 per year on books and supplies can be the breaking point.

As publishers keep costs high by pumping out new editions and selling books bundled with software, students are forced to forgo book purchases or otherwise undermine their academic progress.

 

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