U.S. House OKs Bill On College Transparency

This story was written by Angelica Dongallo, Daily Californian
The U.S. House of Representatives passed an act Thursday that aims to make college education costs more transparent to students.

If passed into law, the College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007 would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 by requiring colleges and universities to provide information about financial aid, tuition, loans and endowments, among other provisions.

"Now we are redoubling our commitment to college students and parents by reigning in skyrocketing tuition prices and making our whole system of higher education far more consumer-friendly," said bill author Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) in a statement.

The act was passed by a 354-58 vote in the House and is now subject to review by a conference committee.

"Chairman Miller believes that the bill's provisions to arm consumers with complete information about college pricing and increasing transparency; ensure that states maintain their higher education funding commitments; and hold colleges accountable for price increases will be an effective approach to address soaring tuition prices," said Rachel Racusen, a spokesperson for Miller, in an e-mail.

Although UC officials previously voiced concerns over some of the act's provisions, UC spokesperson Chris Harrington said the university was happy to see the act succeed.

"The University of California is pleased that the legislation has passed in the House," he said. "We look forward to working with members of the House and Senate as the legislation is conferenced."

However, Harrington added that the university sees areas in which the act could be improved.

"A couple of the amendments that were included in the legislation today we remain concerned about," he said.

One amendment, from Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), would keep track of institutions that have the largest percentage increases in tuition and fees over a three-year period. A second, authored by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) and Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), would require all institutions to provide information to students about current and projected tuition and fee rates.

University officials also sent a letter yesterday to Miller that commended his work, but pointed to specific portions they find to be unclear.

"We are wary ... of having too many reporting requirements imposed on institutions when there is not a clear need for the data, or a stated purpose for why such data might be useful or necessary for students and families," said Scott Sudduth, UC assistant vice president of federal governmental relations, in the letter.

Sudduth also acknowledged concerns about peer-to-peer file sharing that were addressed by the bill approved by the House, but said the university supports peer-to-peer networks when used to share materials and research legally.

A conference committee will work out differences between the House bill and the version that was passed by the Senate in July. The finalized bill will then be returned to both houses to undergo a final vote before it goes to the president's desk.
© 2008 Daily Californian via U-WIRE