TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner that would require institutions of higher education and proprietary degree-granting institutions to improve transparency of tuition and fees was approved by the Senate today.
“Too often, when students put together a financial plan for their higher education, they are unaware of hidden costs that have surprise impacts on their budget. They end up needing student loans to finish their degree and graduate with an average debt of $28,318 that undermines their ability to start out in life on good footing. This bill will require the transparency needed for a realistic forecast of what their education will really cost,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer).
Under the bill, the governing board of a public institution of higher education or a proprietary institution licensed to offer academic degrees would be required to do the following:
- Develop written policies and procedures that establish a system of internal controls applied consistently over the development and management of mandatory student fees;
- Assess each of the institution’s mandatory student fees individually and document the criteria and justification for any adjustments made to the fees;
- Establish separate funds in the institution’s budget for each individual mandatory student fee to promote transparency of fee revenue and expenditures;
- Implement accounting procedures that establish a process to accurately identify transactions related to mandatory student fee activity and the expenditures related to each of the mandatory student fees; and
- Include in the institution’s description of its mandatory student fees, all uses of the fee monies including salaries.
“Beyond tuition bills, there are various other costs involved in earning a degree and we want to prevent them from getting out of hand,” said Senator Turner. “This legislation will safeguard students’ finances – and their dreams – by revealing a realistic, detailed list of expected expenses.”
The bill, S-2046, also requires public and independent institutions of higher education and proprietary institutions licensed to offer academic degrees to provide a financial aid “shopping sheet” to each prospective student as part of the institution’s financial aid offer to that student. The bill directs the Secretary of Higher Education to prescribe a model format for the shopping sheet to be used by the institutions including information concerning the costs and expected debt that the particular student can expect to incur in attending that institution as well as information concerning the institution’s graduation rate, student retention rate, and student loan default rate.
The Senate approved the bill 37-0. It now heads to the Assembly for further consideration.