A new bipartisan bill was introduced last year in the Senate by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Al Franken of Minnesota. According to the article entitled “Senator sponsors bill to give student loan borrowers more info,” which was published in July of last year, the proportion of Iowa’s graduates with debt was 66% — the 8th Highest in the country.
In a news release published on Chuck Grassley’s website, Al Franken was quoted saying, “Minnesota students and families are finding it more and more difficult to pay for college, and that’s why I’m working so hard on this issue. Part of the problem is that students often don’t have a clear picture of how much their education is going to actually cost them, and often don’t fully understand what schools they can and cannot afford.” With both states having some of the highest student loan debt rates in the nation, this issue only highlights the greater problem of student debt that is facing the nation.
The senators have introduced to acts that aim to improve the information schools are required to share with borrowers in the effort to make their financial decision grounded in hard numbers rather than speculation. If passed, the Net Price Calculator Improvement Act would improve the current tools that are available to students to get include estimates for the cost of college. It would also mandate schools to put a price calculator on their website where potential students and their parents would most likely look for the cost of going to that school. Furthermore, it would give the Department of Education the permission to create a universal calculator that would allow students to compare the costs of various institutions.
The second act that has been introduced is called The Understanding the True Cost of College Act. If implemented, this would create a universal financial award letter, allowing students to effectively compare different packages from different schools. Currently, the language that is used for the different types of aid available is not standardized and often leads to confusion between what needs to be repaid and what doesn’t. This act would solve this issue by mandating a standardized list of terms and definitions used in these financial award packages.
So far, these bills have been introduced but there is been no other movement since. Both senators hope that these acts will be passed with the reauthorization of The Higher Education Act. It was last reauthorized in 2008, and many have been hoping that it would be reauthorized this year, but at the pace it is currently moving, it most likely will not be reauthorized by the end of 2018.