WASHINGTON, D.C. | June 22, 2016
Each year, families across the country face difficult decisions about where they can afford to send their children to college and what institution is the best fit for them. Students must wade through massive and often conflicting amounts of information in order to make an informed choice.
While the federal government has long provided students with financial assistance to pursue a postsecondary education, for many, the college selection and financial aid process is complicated, burdensome, and confusing. Taking time to fully understand the available data can be an aggravating task that may get put off and ultimately ignored, often with disastrous consequences.
In 2008, Congress attempted to make information about colleges and universities more transparent with the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. That bill directed the secretary of education to collect and report on information from every college and university receiving federal student aid, including cost of attendance, the percentage of students receiving financial aid, and college completion rates. As a result, information from 7,000 colleges across the nation is now available to help students and their families plan for the future. But there is more that can be done.
Much of the data available because of the 2008 reforms does not take into account large numbers of students enrolled in higher education or fails to capture crucial information that students and families need. To make matters worse, many of the federal government’s efforts to increase transparency in higher education since 2008 have only added to the confusion and uncertainty many prospective students face.
That’s why I—along with my colleagues Mr. Messer and Mr. Sablan—introduced the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act
. This bill will improve the information students and their families need to make smart decisions about their education, providing a more complete picture of student populations on our nation’s college campuses. It will also begin to streamline the overwhelming maze of information currently provided to students and families at the federal level.
More specifically, the bill requires the secretary of education to create a consumer-tested College Dashboard. This dashboard will provide students with the key information they need to decide what school to attend—such as the completion rates of all students at that college or university, not just those attending college full time and for the first time.
To ensure students know this information is available to them, the bill also instructs the secretary to actively provide links to the College Dashboard pages of each institution that a student lists on his or her application for federal student aid. By improving and making more students aware of the information available, we can better assist them in making financially responsible decisions that will help them achieve the dream of obtaining a college degree.
Furthermore, this legislation will streamline many of the federal government’s existing transparency efforts—requiring better coordination between federal agencies and eliminating unnecessary initiatives.
It’s crucial that we continue to increase transparency in the country’s higher education system. The Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act
is a positive step forward in that effort. The substitute amendment I am offering makes small technical changes to the base bill for clarity.
I urge my colleagues to support the amendment, as well as the underlying legislation
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