WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) today reintroduced legislation to ensure that a wide range of comparative data about higher education programs is more readily available for prospective students and their families. The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act of 2019 will increase access to information about school graduation rates, debt levels, how much graduates can expect to earn, and other education and workforce-related measures of success as they make important decisions about higher education.
“Choosing a college or university is a major financial decision—it can affect students’ likelihood of graduating, the amount of student loan debt they will incur, and their future earning potential,” said Sen. Warner. “Students and families making such critical decisions have the right to know whether they are making a worthwhile investment, and this legislation will make important information available for those weighing different options.”
According to data from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), 62 percent of recent Virginia graduates have student loan debt, with an average debt of more than $33,000. With rising educational costs and uncertainty in the job market, students must be able to inform themselves as much as possible before making costly decisions about their futures. However, individuals considering a higher education are often forced to make life-altering financial and educational decisions based on information that is inadequate, inaccurate, or both. Institutional data available through the Department of Education’s College Scorecard is limited, and similar data published by individual states typically looks only at first-time, full-time students or students who remain in the same state after graduating.
The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act would make available accurate information about college and student outcomes while also prioritizing the privacy of student information. The bill would safeguard student privacy by using secure multiparty computation (MPC), an advanced encryption technique, to generate statistical data based on student information from colleges and universities, as well as loan and income information from government agencies like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Department of Education. MPC ensures that no entity has to “give up” sensitive information in a way that is accessible to others.
Sen. Warner has introduced several bills to improve transparency, accountability, and affordability in higher education, and help borrowers better manage their student loan debts. The Employer Participation in Repayment Act would allow employers to apply pre-tax income to help their employees with student loan payments. The Dynamic Student Loan Repayment Act would make income-based repayment the default option for borrowers. The Go to High School, Go to College Act would give eligible students access to their Pell Grant dollars while enrolled in early college courses. Finally, the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act would promote financial literacy by providing students who are recipients of federal financial aid with comprehensive counseling services.