NAICU Washington Update

Veteran Data Bills Advance Through Congress

September 26, 2012

Amid concerns that veteran students don't have the information they need to make the most of their GI Bill benefits, Congress is working on proposals that would require additional consumer disclosures to these students.

The House approved the “Improving Transparency of Education Opportunities for Veterans Act” (H.R. 4057) on September 11.  A day later, the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs approved the “GI Bill Consumer Awareness Act of 2012” (S. 2241). The next step for the bill will be consideration by the full Senate.

There is broad support for the objective of providing veterans with information that will help them make wise choices about postsecondary education.  Unfortunately, these measures aren't unlikely to have their intended effect.  The level of detail the two bills call for, especially the Senate bill, is likely to overwhelm the students it is intended to help.  At the same time, the proposed new disclosures will considerably increase the information collection burden on institutions.

The Senate bill is particularly troublesome because it calls for the collection of nearly 30 new data items - many of which would have to be further disaggregated.  And because the focus is at the program level, the data called for differs from the information that the Department of Education currently collects.

The House bill avoids many of the excesses of the Senate proposal, but still is not without its problems. For example, it would require an institution to disclose the median Title IV debt levels for all students, while another new federal consumer disclosure initiative is already calling for disclosure of median debt levels “for completers.”   Most consumers will find it confusing to be find two numbers from the same institution, appearing to describe the same thing.

NAICU has joined several other higher education associations in letters to the House and Senate, detailing concerns about the measures.

Congress didn't complete action on either of these measures before leaving on its lengthy pre-election break, but may consider them when they return in November.

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