New Jersey governor signs college cost transparency law

Dive Brief:

  • New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, on Thursday signed legislation that requires every college in the state to annually provide all enrolled students an itemized breakdown of their expenses, estimated debt, financial aid and other subsidies they may be eligible to receive.
  • Public and private colleges in the state already had to provide this information in their financial aid offers to prospective students under a bill signed in 2019.
  • The expansion of the original measure, which is part of Murphy’s push to make college costs more transparent, comes amid similar initiatives nationwide. 

Dive Insight:

Efforts to make clearer how much students will be paying for college have ramped up among states and the federal government for several years, especially as scrutiny of the cost of higher education grows.

New Jersey’s requirements are expansive, now mandating public and private colleges to provide all students with a “shopping sheet” every year with information including the total cost of one year at the institution. This encompasses the price of tuition, student fees, room and board, books, materials, transportation and other education-related expenses. 

The summary also features the net amount students will owe for one year of attendance after accounting for aid, as well as the total per year of student loans and work study money for which students are eligible. 

“This legislation doubles down on our commitment to make the true cost of higher education more transparent and easier to understand,” Murphy said in a statement Thursday. “By strengthening transparency standards, students will have the information they need to make informed choices as they plan their educational futures.” 

Other states have recently tried to be more upfront about college expenses. In Oregon, for instance, legislation passed this year requiring public and community colleges to publish estimated costs online for mandatory course materials and fees for at least three-fourths of the for-credit classes that they offer. 

On the federal side, the Obama administration helped create the College Scorecard in 2015, which publicized cost of attendance, but also how much students would earn a decade after graduating. The database has expanded over the years to include such information as debt incurred by students enrolling in particular programs.It has been criticized for capturing limited amounts of data.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle also reintroduced The College Transparency Act this year. It would permit the federal government to gather information on student-level data on college outcomes, such as completion rates and post-graduate earnings. Critics of the proposal said it could infringe on student privacy.

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