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Cunningham, Gopal Bill Package to Increase Transparency of Online Degree Programs Advances

Trenton – In an effort to enhance transparency between institutions and students, the Senate Higher Education Committee today advanced a bill package sponsored by Senators Sandra Cunningham and Vin Gopal that will require online program managers and certain institutions of higher education to be more transparent in the responsibility they hold in online degree programs.

“While online degree programs have made education accessible to those unable to attend traditional programs, we must increase transparency and ensure prospective students understand who is operating the program and how that impacts the cost of the degree and financial aid available. Now it seems more important than ever, as the pandemic has shifted most of higher education to an online setting, that these programs are regulated,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson), chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee. “We need to ensure online program managers and institutions support students beyond enrollment and support institutional retention after the first year. Transparency between these entities, the institutions they are working with, and the public will allow prospective students to make more informed decisions upon enrollment.”

“Transparency between online program managers and institutions of higher education will simplify the research process for prospective students,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth). “The pandemic has challenged us as a society to completely reimagine what learning looks like outside of a traditional classroom setting. The goal of this bill package is to ensure that institutions are transparent in their data and raise public awareness around these entities.”

The first bill, S-3708, would establish disclosure requirements for schools working with online program managers (OPM). They would be required to disclose online program information on their website such as the name of the OPM, admission requirements, online and on-campus tuition costs and additional financial aid information.

The second bill, S-3709, would require third-party OPMs offering academic degrees to self-identify as a third party to prospective students.

The third bill, S-3710, would require higher education institutions to collect necessary information from their OPM and submit an annual expenditure report to the Secretary of Higher Education.

The final bill, S-3711, would require four-year public institutions of higher education to include students enrolled exclusively online in the metrics reported under the New Jersey College Student and Parent Consumer Information Act.

The bills were all released from committee by votes of 3-0.