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Proposed legislation to require colleges to list graduates’ salaries

Bipartisan legislation requiring states to report data on the average salaries of college graduates will be reintroduced in Congress this week and might be unnecessary, members of the Boston University community said.

Cristal Wang, a School of Management freshman, said the proposal is redundant and a waste of money, as a majority of the data is available on the Internet.

“It isn’t necessary because most of that information is already online,” Wang said. “There isn’t a reason to spend more money on gathering information we already have.”

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, of Oregon, and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio,  of Florida, originally proposed the transparency bill, referred to as the “Know Before You Go Act,” to Congress in February 2012.  The senators plan to reintroduce the bill into the current Congress soon, although an exact date has not been specified.

“The Know Before You Go Act would help students access key indicators of college value before they invest precious time and money,” said Wyden’s spokesman Ken Willis in an email. “This would allow students, parents, taxpayers, policymakers and researchers to gain critical information on the value of private and public investments in higher education.”

Willis said the proposed legislation would modernize existing reporting requirements by creating state-based, privacy-protected and individual-level data systems. These include measures of college value such as retention, completion, earnings and debt.

“Such a system would allow institutions to report many of the existing data collection requirements to their states, rather than report to both their states and the U.S. Department of Education,” Willis said. “This would take advantage of the federal investment in the state longitudinal data systems while ensuring interoperability of the state-based systems.”

Existing data reporting includes limited information regarding part-time, transfer, graduate and professional students, Willis said. This proposal will include statistics about the increasing population of transfer students and growing number of part-time to full-time students.

However, BU political science professor Doug Kriner said the proposed legislation is redundant in its requirements.

“This information is of rather limited utility,” he said in an email.  “A good bit of this information is already available for those interested in finding it.”

Kriner said while lawmakers intend for the bill to provide more school-specific information, data on average salaries by major is already available at the national or regional level.

He said in terms of practical policy, the implications of the bill would be minimal.

“It is a nice opportunity for members of Congress to take a politically popular position criticizing the rising costs of higher education,” Kriner said.

James Basile, a College of Arts and Sciences junior, said he believes the funds for the proposal should go to other facets of education.

“Not a lot of people have plans for college anymore because not everyone has an opportunity,” Basile said. “It [effort for the bill] would be better spent on adjusting public school education rather than college educations.”

The bill’s bipartisan backing, however, is a step toward increased collaboration in Congress, which might create more opportunities for education reform, Basile said.

CAS junior Varsha Subramanyam said she is pleased to see legislators collaborating on the bill.

“This really excites me because even though I lean to the left, I would rather see senators work across the aisle, and it’s a great start towards education reform,” she said.

Subramanyam said while the proposal might not change the face of education, it is a step toward congressional agreement.

“Our main priority is to get more people to go to college and make it more accessible to the nation,” she said.  “I really hope this bipartisanship continues with other education bills.”

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