State PIRGs' Higher Education Project
218 D Street SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 546-9707

Ivan Frishberg

Ellynne Bannon


Fighting for Access to a College Education

When the state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) started the Higher Education Project in 1994, Congress was considering cuts to education totalling nearly $30 billion over 7 years. Programs on the chopping block included student loan subsidies and campus based programs such as Federal work-study.

Since that time, Congress has rejected most of these proposals, and has actually increased Federal funds available to higher education. Along with a coalition of more than 50 other higher education organizations, the State PIRGs have been working to make Congressional support for higher education a reality.

The State PIRGs have organized rallies in Washington, DC and in the states, have spoken out through the media and at campus events, have used our experience as advocates to educate both citizens and our elected officials about the benefits of investing in education, and have been part of an enormous grassroots effort to stop the raid on student aid.

The results have been clear:

  • A one year increase in student aid funding of $1.3 billion.
  • The largest ever increase in the maximum Pell grant to $3,750.
  • Increased funding for State Student Incentive Grants (SSIG), Perkins Loans, and College Work Study.
  • Students and schools continue to have the choice of participating in the Direct Loan program or the Guaranteed Student Loan program.

All of these victories will make a difference in the lives of students. Students will receive more grant funding, have better service, and will receive more aid from their schools when taking out a student loan.

This means that the door to higher education will be just a little more open to generations of students to come.

These are just some of the accomplishments of State PIRGs' Higher Education Project. As the 107th Congress considers changes to the Higher Education Act and new proposals for funding student aid, the State PIRGs will continue to be one of the most active and effective voices for students and education.

Fighting for Student Rights

In addition to fighting for access to a college education, the State PIRGs have helped to stop attacks on student rights in the Congress.

In 1995, two Congressmen, Rep. Solomon (R-NY) and Rep. Istook (R- OK), introduced the Campus Gag Rule and tried to take away the political voice of students who were so effectively speaking out against attacks on education and the environment.

The Campus Gag Rule would have taken away all Federal funds to universities and colleges where students used their own student fee money to be involved in matters of public policy.

The State PIRGs joined with members of the higher education community, student groups from Illinois Students For Life to Amnesty International, and more than 1000 faculty and campus leaders to oppose the Campus Gag Rule.

In an overwhelming success for student rights, the Campus Gag Rule was defeated 6 to 8 in the House Appropriations subcommittee, 17 to 32 in the full Appropriations Committee, and finally by a bi-partisan vote of 161 to 263 on the floor of the House of Representatives. After such rejection, the Campus Gag Rule was never even proposed in the United States Senate.