Bipartisan Bill on Wage Data

May 26, 2015

Newly introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives would enable the linking of student-level enrollment information with data on employment and wages. The bipartisan bill would provide postgraduate earnings averages at both the institutional and academic program levels, wrote Amy Laitinen, deputy director of New America's higher education program. It would make public these and other performance data about higher education by overturning the ban on a federal “student unit record” system and freeing up existing but currently unavailable information.

Representative Mia Love, a Utah Republican, introduced the bill -- her first -- with Representative Duncan Hunter, a California Republican. Representative Paul Ryan, the powerful Wisconsin Republican, is a co-sponsor. Dubbed the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act, it mirrors a companion bill that a bipartisan group of senators previously introduced, including Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, and Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon. The House bill would lead to graduation figures for more than just first-time, full-time students, which are the constraints federal data currently face, Laitinen wrote. It also would provide loan-debt information for both graduates and students who drop out.

Previous versions of the Senate bill also called for a federal student unit record system, which would track students through higher education and into the workforce. Conservative lawmakers and private college groups have opposed the system, however, citing privacy issues and other concerns. But support for it appears to be building.

“Going to school to learn new skills is one of the best ways to improve your quality of life. But it's also one of the most costly,” Paul Ryan said in a written statement, according to UtahPolicy.com. “Know Before You Go could help cut costs by giving students access to useful information that would help them make better informed decisions about their education. I’m excited to co-sponsor this commonsense reform.”

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