TURNER BILL TO IMPROVE TRANSPARENCY FOR HIGHER EDUCATION TUITION AND FEE ADVANCES

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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 passed the Senate Higher Education Committee today.

“The expenses of providing a comprehensive degree program, and the cost to students of earning that degree, are complex and complicated and can easily get out of hand,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer).  “Our objective with this legislation is to manage the costs both to the institution and to the students, provide complete transparency of all expenses and aid students in formulating a realistic financial forecast and its ongoing management.”

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.

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.

At minimum, the shopping sheet would include:

(1)   the total cost for one year of attendance at the institution, including tuition, student fees, room and board, books and materials, and transportation and other educational costs;

(2)   the total amount per year of grants and scholarships awarded to that student, including any grants and scholarships from the institution, federal grants, State grants, or other scholarships;

(3)   the total net amount the student will owe for one year of attendance at the institution, after taking into account any grants and scholarships;

(4)   the total amount per year of student loans and work study funds that the student is eligible for, broken down by federal Perkins loans, federal Direct Subsidized loans, federal Direct Unsubsidized loans, and federal, State, or institutional work study funds;

(5)   the median borrowing in federal loans for undergraduate study at the institution and the average monthly payment over 10 years for this amount;

(6)   the percentage of students from the institution who defaulted on their student loans; and,

(7)   in the case of a county college or a proprietary institution licensed to offer associate degrees, the percentage of students at the college or institution who graduate within three years as compared to the average rate at other county colleges or proprietary institutions as applicable, and in the case of a four-year institution of higher education or a proprietary institution licensed to offer baccalaureate degrees, the percentage of students at the institution who graduate within six years as compared to the average rate at other four-year public or independent institutions of higher education or other proprietary institutions as applicable.

With today’s 5-0 vote the bill advances to the full Senate for further consideration.