Office of Planning and Budgeting

Bipartisan Bills Seeks to Provide Transparency in Higher Ed

The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act of 2013, a bipartisan federal bill championed by Senators Wyden (D-OR), Rubio (R-FL) and Warner (D-VA) and Representatives Andres (D-NJ) and Hunter (R-CA), was introduced in both chambers of Congress last week. The bill seeks to give students and their families more information about graduation rates, student debt, transfer rates, expected earnings and other important considerations. The goal is to centralize the data so that families can make an informed decision about college.

While there is support for some of the major provisions in the bill, especially for more information on student debt, others are more controversial. The bill would create a federal unit-record database, which some privacy advocates fear could cause confidential data to leak and could enable the government to use data for non-educational purposes. Currently, such databases are banned, which is a major hurdle to the passage of the bill.

Furthermore, while everyone agrees that students should have as much information as possible in making their decisions, colleges are concerned about increasing already onerous reporting requirements. Universities attempting to manage scarce resources are wary of diverting money from the academic mission towards reporting. The Government Accountability Office recently released a report indicating that college experts find existing reporting requirements, such as providing data on enrollment rates, campus safety, and cost of attendance, exceedingly burdensome.

It remains to be seen which, if any, pieces of the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act will move forward in the coming weeks. The Office of Federal Relations is tracking this measure. Please follow their blog to receive updates as this and other similar legislation continues through the House and Senate.

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