| February 21, 2013

Informed-student push continues

Those of us at OCPA recognize the importance of education—I challenge you to name another nonprofit public-policy organization that has raised $127,000 and awarded it to students to attend college—but we’re also big believers in transparency.

In a recent front-page story (‘Push to Gauge Bang for Buck from College Gains Steam’) in The Wall Street Journal, Ruth Simon and Michael Corkery reported that “U.S. and state officials are intensifying efforts to hold colleges accountable for what happens after graduation, a sign of frustration with sky-high tuition costs and student-loan debt.”

Sens. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) are expected to reintroduce this week legislation that would require states to make more accessible the average salaries of colleges' graduates. The figures could help prospective students compare salaries by college and major to assess the best return on their investment.

A similar bipartisan bill died last year, but a renewed push has gained political momentum in recent weeks. "This begins to introduce some market forces into the academic arena that have not been there," said Mr. Wyden, adding that support for the move is unusually broad given the political divide in Washington. Rep. Eric Cantor (R., Va.), the House majority leader, said he intends to support a similar measure in the House. …

About 10 U.S. states already publish or are expected to start releasing this year data showing how salaries of recent graduates vary by school and program. The states include California, Florida, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

This conversation appears to be picking up in Oklahoma, too. John Filonow reported last month in the Stillwater NewsPress that state Senator Jim Halligan (R-Stillwater) is concerned about truth in lending for college loans.

Both parents and students need to be aware of how much money they are borrowing because college loans can’t be excused through bankruptcy, [Halligan] said. Students need to know starting salaries and their chances of being employed once graduating, he said. He said he wants all Oklahoma students to be able to make a good living after graduating college.

“That dream has not been realized,” Halligan said.

What’s noteworthy about that is that Jim Halligan is … the former president of Oklahoma State University. An equally surprising nugget from the same news story: state Rep. Cory Williams, a Stillwater Democrat, indicated that we need to look beyond simply throwing money at higher education. It strikes me as significant that two lawmakers from Stillwater, the home of Oklahoma State University, would make these comments.

Meanwhile, freshman state Rep. Ken Walker (R-Tulsa), introduced legislation this year requiring universities to maintain an “informed-student document.” Rep. Walker, the youngest of six children from a poor family and the first in his family to earn a college degree, wants students and their parents to have information (by academic major) on things like average starting salaries, unemployment rate for graduates, and average earnings for graduates.

[Cross-posted at]

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