Del. Tim Hugo, R-Centreville, has submitted a bill, HB 1980, that would bring more consumer transparency to Virginia’s higher education system. The bill would require all public four-year colleges and universities to maintain a tab or link labeled “Consumer Information” on the home pages of their websites. That tab or link would be updated annually and include the following institutional data:
- Six-year undergraduate graduation rate for each of the past 10 years;
- Freshman-to-sophomore retention rate for full-time undergraduate students for each of the past 10 years;
- The annual percentage increase in tuition for each of the past 10 years;
- The annual percentage increase in mandatory student fees for each of the past 10 years;
- A link to the annual report on the use of student fees;
- A link to post-secondary education and employment data;
- A statement of the institution’s budget broken down by department for the current and previous fiscal years, with links to annual reports.
The bill is backed by a group called Partners for Affordable Excellence @ EDU. Colleges and universities are already required to collect and report most if not all of this information already to the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) but it gets buried in the blizzard of data, and consumers don’t know it exists.
“We view this bill as a motherhood and apple pie bill,” writes James V. Koch, president emeritus of Old Dominion University and a board member of Partners for Affordable Excellence. Making the information readily accessible to consumers, he says, “will lead to better decision-making by students, parents, donors and legislators.”
Sen. Jeff McWaters, R-Virginia Beach, is sponsoring the Senate version of the bill.
Bacon’s bottom line: It will be interesting to see if Virginia’s higher ed lobby resists this bill. Will public colleges and universities engage in cartel-like behavior to suppress valuable consumer data? Or will those institutions that will be portrayed in the best light be willing to play along?
Consumers aren’t the only ones who need to view this data, by the way. So do reporters, bloggers and members of the public who want to hold these public institutions accountable.
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