March 10, 2020
Increasing Transparency and Accountability: The Building Blocks of a Robust and Cohesive Federal Policy Framework for College Affordability

Vice President for Policy and Advocacy

The federal higher education policy landscape has been heating up in recent weeks as Congress considers reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor is currently conducting a series of public hearings on increasing college affordability, educational quality, and student success. And Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pension, has released his priorities for reauthorization, as has ranking Committee member Patty Murray (D-WA).

In addition, federal policymakers have recently proposed bills to increase transparency and accountability in higher education. In addition to the College Transparency Act (which we support), lawmakers have introduced the bipartisan Net Price Calculator Improvement Act, the Understanding the True Cost of College Act, and the Know Before You Owe Federal Student Loan Act.

While the proverbial devil will be in the details, we believe that these bills can help increase the availability of information that will help students and families make better decisions and help colleges and universities monitor the quality of their academic programs.

The Trump Administration has also issued an Executive Order to increase college transparency regarding student outcomes. The Executive Order directs the U.S. Secretary of Education to include more information on the College Scorecard, including earnings, debt, and repayment information for each certificate, degree, graduate, and professional program for former students who received Federal student aid. This is a big deal. As we’ve said before, program-level data can help students and families make better decisions about their investment in higher education. With this information, students and families can better decide on not only which college or university is the better fit for them but also which majors or programs of study will pay off.

Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust applauds these efforts. We’re glad these issues are front and center for our policymakers in Washington, DC. We see efforts to improve transparency and accountability as promising building blocks. As more policy proposals are released in the coming weeks and months, we hope these individual pieces add up to a robust and coherent federal policy framework for increasing college affordability, educational quality, and student success.