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Former U.S. representative Paul D. Mitchell, a Michigan Republican who was a driving force behind efforts to create a new system for tracking student outcomes through college and into the workforce, advocated for the legislation almost literally until his dying breath.

Mitchell died of renal cancer on Aug. 15, at the age of 65. Three days earlier, from his "bed in hospice care," he wrote a letter to congressional leaders on education issues pleading with them to ensure passage of the legislation, which would repeal a federal ban on a student-level data system and produce granular information on the career outcomes of specific programs and institutions. The measure has significant bipartisan support but remains controversial with some conservatives and some college groups.

"Passing this bill is common-sense, long overdue and extremely timely as our nation works to recover from an economic crisis and Americans return to school to get the skills they need to rejoin the workforce," Mitchell wrote to Senators Patty Murray and Richard Burr and Representatives Bobby Scott and Virginia Foxx.

"Why am I writing you today, as one of my last private actions?" he wrote. "As I sit here with my loving family, including my children and grandchildren, I sincerely hope that you and your colleagues will possess the fortitude to put politics aside and pass overwhelmingly bipartisan bills such as this one, especially when you clearly have the votes to do so with ease."

"While I will never see the benefits that [the College Transparency Act] will have on working families in America, I pray that you will do the right thing and get this bill signed into law. One thing I have learned this year is life is short and there is no time to waste."