Legislation Introduced to Help Public Track Success of Students in Higher Ed Institutions

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House and Senate versions of the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act (H.R. 2518 and S. 1195) have been introduced in Congress with the intent of providing potential and current students, parents, and the general public with information on student learning outcomes at individual colleges and universities. It would require institutions of higher education (IHEs) to gather data on average student earnings post-graduation; graduation rates for first-time, full-time/part-time, and transfer students; student loan debt information for graduates and students who do not complete their programs; and whether a student pursues higher levels of post-secondary education. The bill’s sponsors and supporters believe this information, properly analyzed and presented, will help the public better understand how effectively (or not) individual institutions and our higher education system as a whole are serving students.

Additionally, this bill would allow the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to disaggregate the data it would make available by Pell, Stafford, and Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit status. This would provide students, the general public, and the government with evidence on how successful IHEs are in providing students with an appropriate education in relation to these different major sources of federal financial aid.

The bill calls on ED to issue guidance and regulations relating to security of the data compiled. Potential provisions would address audit capabilities, access controls, and “requirements to ensure sufficient data security, quality, validity, and reliability.” Personally identifiable information protected under the bill would include names of the student and/or parents/guardians, addresses, personal identifiers (such as social security numbers or student number), indirect identifiers (such as date of birth or mother’s maiden name), and other information that alone or in combination with other data could be used to identify the student.

The House version has been referred to the House Education and the Workforce Committee, while the Senate version has been referred to the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. EDUCAUSE will monitor the legislation to see if it progresses in either chamber of Congress and engage with members to develop appropriate responses as needed.