H.R. 3178, Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act, as amended

H.R. 3178

Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act, as amended

Date
July 11, 2016 (114th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Molly Newell

Floor Situation

On Monday, July 11, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 3178, the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act, as amended, under suspension of the rules. H.R. 3178 was introduced on July 23, 2015, by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), and was referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce Committee, which ordered the bill reported, as amended, by voice vote on June 22, 2016.

Bill Summary

H.R. 3178 would streamline and improve information made available to students about institutions of higher education by:

  • Requiring the Secretary of Education to develop a consumer-tested College Dashboard to display information pertinent to a student’s selection of a college or university to attend. The College Dashboard will provide students with key pieces of information on institutions about enrollment, completion, net price, and average loan debt;
  • Ensuring the College Dashboard includes information on the completion rates of all students, including contemporary students and Pell Grant recipients;
  • Instructing the Secretary of Education to provide a link to the College Dashboard page of each institution listed on a student’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to make sure students know this information is available;
  • Directing the Secretary of Education to coordinate with other federal agencies to ensure all published higher education information is consistent with the information available on the College Dashboard;
  • Improving current policies governing institutional net price calculators to give students a more accurate picture of the total cost of attending a particular institution; and
  • Streamlining and eliminating unnecessary information and federal transparency initiatives.[1]

———————
[1] See Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act Fact Sheet

Background

Despite repeated attempts to enhance transparency in the higher education system, students and families still struggle to access important information that will assist in their search for the right college or university. The federal government provides financial assistance for millions of students to use at the institution of their choice. Yet students and families face a deluge of information that often provides little to no useful help as they try to make this important decision.

To make matters worse, available information often ignores a large portion of students enrolled in the postsecondary education system or fails to capture information students and families need to view the entire landscape of higher education. Despite numerous initiatives at the federal level that are supposed to provide clarity to prospective students, these efforts often add more confusion and uncertainty by presenting conflicting information with limited opportunity to compare different education options.

According to the bill’s sponsor, “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. 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. 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.”[1]

Substantively similar legislation, H.R. 4983, passed the House in the 113th Congress by voice vote.

————————
[1] See Rep. Foxx’s Press Release,  “Committee Approves Foxx’s Bipartisan Legislation to Increase Transparency in America’s Higher Education System,” June 22, 2016.

Cost

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that enacting H.R. 3178 would cost $1 million for administrative costs over the 2017-2021 period; such spending would be subject to the availability of appropriated funds. Enacting the bill would not affect direct spending or revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply. Additionally, CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 3178 would not increase net direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2027.

Additional Information

For questions or further information please contact Molly Newell with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 2-1374.