Student Right to Know Before You Go Bill Introduced

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(November 30, 2017) Today Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act, which would provide prospective college students with substantial data about higher education institutions and establish privacy protection standards for colleges and universities with regards to sharing student data.

The information provided to students would include graduation rates, costs, debts associated with attending the institution, and expected salaries of graduates. The Senators expressed concern that under the current structure, higher education institutions often provided only parts of the relevant data,  such as data focused on full-time, first-time students that doesn’t include "nontraditional" students. The data and outcome measures mandated by the Act would be publicly available and broken down by institution and program of study. Senator Rubio stated in their joint press release that the bill "could help American families make better informed and more cost-effective higher education decisions."

Additionally, in order to protect students’ privacy, the bill would require the use of privacy-enhancing technologies to encrypt and protect the information that is needed to provide the above listed data. This technology includes the use of secure multi-party computation, which generates statistical data based on information provided by colleges and universities as well as loan and income information from government agencies like the IRS. As Senator Wyden explained, "Our updated, bipartisan bill empowers students and families without forcing tradeoffs that sacrifice individual privacy or data security." Senator Warner continued, "This legislation does more to protect student privacy, while making meaningful, contextualized information readily accessible to students as they make key decisions about their futures."

Senator Wyden provided a summary of the bill as well as a section-by-section break down. A companion bill was introduced in the House yesterday by Representatives Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Andre Carson (D-IN), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Scott Peters (D-CA). Senators Wyden and Rubio and Representative Hunter have introduced versions of this bill in every Congress since 2012.

Jen Ortega serves as a consultant to EDUCAUSE on federal policy and government relations. She has worked with EDUCAUSE since 2013 and assists with monitoring legislative and regulatory proposals across a range of policy areas, including cybersecurity, data privacy, e-learning, and accessibility.