Utah’s Senator Hatch introduces Bipartisan College Transparency Act to improve reporting of student outcomes

A bipartisan group of senators led by Utah’s Senator Hatch recently introduced legislation to overturn a federal prohibition on tracking the educational and employment outcomes of college students.

The bill sponsors—all members of the Senate education committee—unveiled the College Transparency Act of 2017, which would allow the federal government, as well as families and prospective students, to obtain more accurate and complete data about whether students at a particular college or in a certain major graduate on time and find well-paying jobs, among other things.

The bill would establish a secure, privacy-protected postsecondary student data system at the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Colleges would report data to this new system in lieu of the current, arguably more burdensome, reporting mechanisms. NCES would be responsible for presenting the information in a user-friendly manner for students and the public, while safeguarding student privacy. NCES would be able to connect with specified federal agencies in order to report on certain student outcomes.

The bill would also prohibit a federal college ratings or rankings scheme, while providing important information to researchers and colleges for institutional improvement. Finally, the bill would ensure that student information is protected through the following provisions: disclosure limitations, prohibitions on the sale of data, penalties for illegally obtaining information, protections for vulnerable students, prohibition on law enforcement access, and strong limitations on personally identifiable information.

Three USHE Presidents provided public statements in support of the newly-introduced legislation:

David W. Pershing, President, University of Utah

“We stand in strong support of efforts designed to promote transparency and clarity for students and families as they select the post-secondary institution that is the best fit for them. We thank Senator Hatch and legislative leaders for their work to advance college completion rates.”

Noelle Cockett, President, Utah State University:

“Utah State University supports the need for better data and information for current and future higher education students. This legislation, with bipartisan support, will aid students and their families with better and more complete data regarding education outcomes at each institution. USU has worked with state policymakers to provide greater transparently in higher education and now also supports Senator Hatch’s leadership on this legislation. It is important that higher education is transparent on our outcomes and focused on data-driven results. This legislation supports that direction.”

Deneece G. Huftalin, President, Salt Lake Community College:

“We strongly support the College Transparency Act, which would generate the information that students and families need to make optimal decisions about the postsecondary institution and program that is right for them.  The law would enable students to know the likelihood of transferring to other colleges after completing their SLCC programs, as well as the what they might expect to earn in the job market.  Combined with Senator Hatch’s legislation to reform graduation rate measures (S.351), this legislation represents a long-overdue and absolutely necessary improvement in public information about the performance of our nation’s colleges.”

Many of the major higher education associations have endorsed the legislation as well, including the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the American Association of Community Colleges, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, the Institute for College Access and Success, and the Institute for Higher Education Policy.