Campaign Raises Awareness about College Access and Affordability

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By Consumers Union on Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

On March 6, 2014,The Center for American Progress and 24 other national and state-based organizations launched a national campaign to tackle the student debt crisis– the Higher Ed, Not Debt campaign. The goals of the campaign are to help the 38.8 million Americans currently holding $1.2 trillion of student debt, and to make college more affordable and accessible for all by sparking civic engagement.

Consumers Union believes that all students deserve affordable access to quality higher education and supports the campaign’s mission. Reducing student debt and increasing equity for American college graduates are essential to our long-term prosperity. Our 2013 report, Degrees of Debt, featured real consumer stories to show the massive impact that student debt can have on the lives of students and their families. The report also outlines Seven Principles for Fair Student Lending, our comprehensive agenda for reforming the system.

While the Higher Ed, Not Debt campaign holds great possibility for resolving this nation’s student debt crisis going forward, there are steps that students and families can take today to help avoid the college debt trap.

At a loss about what to do? Here is a summary of our 6 Low-Cost Ways to Pay for College:

1. Seek the lowest cost source of funds

  • That means scholarships, grants, and work-study money.

2. Only borrow as much as you need-

  • Try to graduate with as few loans as possible, even if you are eligible for more.

3. Federal loans are the best loan source

  • They have fixed rates and offer flexible repayment plans, unlike most private loans from banks or financial firms.

4. Do everything you can to avoid private student loans

  • Don’t be fooled- they can have variable or high interest rates and less flexible repayment options.

5. Consider cutting education costs

  • Think about the possibility of attending community colleges or other lower-cost institutions for at least part of your education, to reduce the overall cost of completing your degree or certificate program.

6. Last but certainly not least, Avoid using your credit card to pay for college.  Credit cards should only be used as a last resort to pay for expenses related to education.

We’ve summarized these tips and more in our “Six Low-Cost Ways To Pay For College” which you can find here.

To learn more about the Higher Ed, Not Debt campaign, check out their intro video and website.

What do you think about the state of higher education? Do you support efforts to make education for affordable and reduce student debt?  Share your story in the comments section below.

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