March 14, 2019

Cassidy, Warren, Scott, Whitehouse Introduce Groundbreaking College Transparency Act

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tim Scott (R-SC), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and 11 other senators today introduced the College Transparency Act (CTA), bipartisan legislation to provide actionable and customizable information for students and families as they consider higher education opportunities. CTA modernizes the college reporting system for postsecondary data by ensuring accurate reporting on student outcomes such as enrollment, completion, and post-college success across colleges and majors, while ensuring the privacy of individual students is securely protected.

This information will tell students how others with their backgrounds have succeeded at an institution, and help point them towards schools and programs of study best suited to their unique needs and desired outcomes. It will also aid institutions of learning and policymakers in their work to improve our country’s postsecondary education system.

The current college reporting system is overly burdensome on institutions, yet provides little practical information for students and families due to significant gaps in college data reporting. Under the updated system, institutions would securely report privacy-protected, student-level data to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). NCES would be responsible for securely storing student information, working with relevant federal agencies to generate post-college outcomes reports, and presenting the summary information on a user-friendly website for students and families. 

“Where to go to college is a life-changing decision. It can set the stage for success or saddle students with overwhelming debt,” said Dr. Cassidy. “With education loan debt at a record high, students should have the information to make the best decision for their futures.”

“Students, families, and the taxpayers deserve a clear picture of how colleges are serving our students,” said Senator Warren. “That’s why I’m glad to partner with my colleagues on this bipartisan legislation to close glaring gaps in college information transparency, so everyone can make better-informed decisions on higher education.”

“Choosing a college is one of the most important decisions that one makes in life. It’s important that we empower students and families to make informed decisions about their educational futures, based on concrete data,” said Senator Scott. “I’m proud to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reintroduce the College Transparency Act.” 

“Rhode Islanders should have the best information available when making career-defining choices like which college to attend and how much student debt to take on.  Our bipartisan proposal to streamline the data colleges are required to report will result in a better experience for applicants and their families as they navigate these big decisions,” said Senator Whitehouse.

U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-MN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) are also original cosponsors of this legislation.

Representatives Paul Mitchell (R-MI), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), and Josh Harder (D-CA) introduced a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Supporters of  this legislation include:

“The College Transparency Act is critical to helping students and their families make informed, cost-effective decisions about their future educational choices,” said Louisiana State University President F. King Alexander. “This bipartisan effort will lay a strong foundation for information that showcases university outcomes and student success metrics. It will also help universities better understand how to better serve their students so that they reach their goals.”

“For many people, a college education is one of the most vital and formative investments they can make. As students, it is increasingly important that we have access to the information we need to make informed decisions about the institutions to which we will be devoting our time, money, and futures. The College Transparency Act would provide students crucial information and make the college decision process more transparent and equitable. The Association of Big Ten Students supports this action and urges all members of Congress to take the step forward into a more affordable and beneficial education system for all,” said Sarah Henry, Director of Legislative Affairs for the Association of Big Ten Students.

“The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) thanks Senators Cassidy, Warren, Scott, and Whitehouse and Representatives Mitchell, Krishnamoorthi, Stefanik, and Harder for the reintroduction of the College Transparency Act,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “The legislation would empower students as consumers through better data on how well students at colleges and universities fare.  It would also provide schools with the information they need to better assess their programs and take steps to further improve the success of their students.  The reauthorization of Higher Education Act presents the perfect opportunity to incorporate the CTA to fill the major holes in higher education data that have been allowed to exist for far too long.”

“The College Transparency Act will give students and families the information they need to choose the college and program that offer them the best chance of success, and it will spur equity-driven, evidence-based action among policymakers, institutions, and employers to enhance opportunities, especially for low-income students and students of color. The bill is a major step forward in using existing data to create the postsecondary data system that our students deserve – one that is transparent and provides the information needed to advance more equitable education outcomes for today’s students, while taking seriously the need to protect student privacy,” said Mamie Voight, Vice President of Policy Research, Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP)

“Students have been making one of the most important and expensive decisions of their lives, largely in the dark. This commonsense, bipartisan legislation will help give students the information they need and deserve as they make decisions about their future,” said Amy Laitinen, Director of Higher Education at New America.