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House and Senate Lawmakers Introduce Legislation to Help Students Choose Between Colleges

May 9, 2013 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Mark Warner, D-Va., and U.S. Representatives Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., and Robert Andrews, D-N.J., today introduced bicameral, bipartisan legislation that would ensure that a wide range of accurate, comparative and easy to understand data about colleges would be readily available online for prospective students and their families. Rubio’s remarks are available here on YouTube. A broadcast quality version of his remarks are available here.

The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act of 2013 would streamline existing institutional reporting requirements to enable students, families, institutions, and policymakers are able to assess schools and programs based on a wide range of key data including graduation rates for non-traditional students, transfer rates, frequency with which graduates go on to pursue higher levels of education, student debt and post-graduation earnings and employment outcomes.

“A college education is one of the most important investments an American can make in their lifetime, so it’s critical that we equip potential students and their families with as much information as possible,” Rubio said. “With this legislation we can finally provide meaningful, easily accessible data to make higher education decisions easier for the 21st century student.”

“There’s no question that everyone needs access to higher education, but it’s time to bring value into the equation,” Wyden said. “College is usually one of the most important and expensive investments people make in their lifetime. This bipartisan legislation would allow people to understand where they can expect their educational choices to take them in the real world.”

“Many high school seniors who are heading to college this fall have just paid their tuition deposits, and they likely have real questions about what value they are getting for their money,” Warner said. “This bipartisan legislation will combine relevant information in a rational way so that students and their families can access comparative information on which colleges and which majors will result in a good job. Our legislation will connect the information already collected by states and schools, and eventually post it online where it will be accessible directly to students as they make one of the most important investments they’ll make during their lifetimes.”

“Information drives decisions and the choices that individuals and families make about their future should be based on information that’s thorough, reliable and readily accessible,” Hunter said. “The Know Before You Go Act ensures that timely data pertaining to an institution of higher education’s performance record and success rate is at the fingertips of anyone interested in exploring their options, predicting debt obligations or anticipating the availability of job opportunities.”

“College tuition is often one the largest financial commitments made in student’s lifetime, and like any other significant investment, students should have access to certain basic facts about their education,” Andrews said. “Understanding the quality and scope of an area of study, as well as the potential to find gainful employment upon graduation is not only critical when planning one’s education, but it can make all the difference in a student’s financial future. Having the tools to make informed decisions early will help streamline the education process for countless students, thereby making college more affordable in the long run.”

Currently, prospective students are forced to make costly and critical decisions about furthering their education with very little or inaccurate information. For example, the U.S. Department of Education makes some institutional data available through its College Scorecard, but the information is, at best, extremely limited. States and private web sites also try to put out similar information, but the data typically only examines first-time, full-time students or students who remain within a given state after college.

The legislation would direct the Secretary of Education to make the information available online in an easily accessible format. Individual privacy would be strictly maintained with safeguards to ensure that no personally identifiable information could ever be disclosed, and the system would be audited for data quality, validity and reliability.

Using information that is already gathered, the bill would allow student records to be matched with employment and earnings data. The results would be highly accurate and informative. This would finally provide students and their families the opportunity and tools needed for a more complete picture of the value of their education.

 

Key Institutional Specific Data Improvements Under the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act

Metric

Current Law

Student Right to Know Before You Go Act

Post-Graduation Earnings Averages

Under current law, no information is made available on average post-graduation earnings.

Average post-graduation earnings would be broken down by:

1)    Program of study

2)    Credential received

3)    Educational institution

4)    State of employment

Graduation Rate

An institution’s graduation rates are only calculated for first-time, full-time students.

Graduation rates would be made available for first-time full- and part-time, and new transfer (full- and part-time) students.

Rates of Remedial Enrollment and Success Rate of Students Needing Remedial Enrollment

Current law does not measure an institution’s remedial enrollment, though institutions typically do.

Rates of remedial enrollment (meaning percent of students who need remedial enrollment) as well as graduation rates for such students would be made available.

Financial Aid

Current law makes available institutional specific information on the percent of students who receive: federal grants (including Pell grants), state and local grants and scholarships, and federal and private student loans. However this information is not broken down to show which types of students (first-time/full-time, transfer, part-time) are receiving such aid.

The same information would be made available, but broken down by student type (first-time/full-time, part-time, and transfer) as well as by specific program of study. Graduation rates could also be calculated for student groups with differing aid packages.

Degree or Certificate-Seeking Status

Under current law, the graduation rates are calculated for first-time, full-time degree-seeking students (including certificates) but with no disaggregation based on type of credential.

Data would distinguish those students who are not seeking a degree or certificate so that they do not count as part of an institution’s graduation rates based solely on a student’s declared intent. Degree-seeking status to would be based on observable behavior, such as completion of 12 credit hours in the first year of enrollment.

Average Federal Loan Debt Upon Graduation

This information is not calculated under current law.

Data would be made available on the average federal loan debt for students upon graduation, and would be disaggregated to various levels of degree and program.

Average Federal Loan Debt for Non-Completers

This information is not calculated under current law.

Data would be made available on the average amount of total Federal loan debt of students who do not complete a program of study two years after last known enrollment in any institution of higher education.

Student Transfer Rates

These rates are not calculated under current law.

Data would be made available on student transfer rates by sector of transfer (defined as the percentage of students who leave an institution and successfully enroll in another institution).

Rates of Continuation to Higher Levels of Education

These rates are not calculated under current law.

Data would be made available on the percent of students from a given institution and given program who go on to higher levels of education (post-baccalaureate, doctoral programs, law school, etc.).

Percent of Students That Received the Degree Level Initially Sought

These rates are not calculated under current law.

Data would be made available on the percent of students who receive the degree they initially sought (AA, baccalaureate, etc.).

Outcome Measures for Students Who Received a Federal Pell Grant, Stafford Loans, or GI Bill Benefits

Under current law, no evaluation metrics are broken down based on type of financial aid received.

Data would be made available showing all the metrics outlined above, but also disaggregated by students who receive: Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, and G.I. Bill benefits.