The bill also includes provisions prohibiting law enforcement from using the data collected from both the student side and the university side, including debt collection activity or enforcement of immigration laws.
The bill would also create a new system of data reporting for universities to the federal government, decreasing the time spent collecting and reporting the data.
With the new system of data reporting, policymakers will also be privy to the information, allowing them to make judgments on the universities that receive taxpayer dollars.
U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., the chairperson of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, strongly believes a goal of the HEA reforms is to provide students and families with better information on student outcomes from colleges and universities, a committee spokesperson said in a statement.
According to the statement, Foxx, as well as other committee members, believes existing data collections can be improved and leveraged in order to help students make better decisions on their postsecondary education without forcing unwilling students to forfeit control over their privacy and data to the federal government.
“A repeal of the student unit record prohibition in favor of a federal student unit record data system, maintained by the Department of Education, would sacrifice the privacy and information of all students seeking a postsecondary education,” the statement said.
Amanda Roberson, a senior research analyst at the Institute for Higher Education Policy, said the CTA would allow for more university- and program-specific data, such as certain graduation and success rates that are not currently available, to be made available to students potentially deciding between two universities or the programs.
She said Foxx’s PROSPER Act would fill in some of the holes in data availability for students, especially after the creation of a student data-based dashboard to compare the statistics available from universities, but it wouldn't be as comprehensive as the CTA.
Roberson noted the more than 130 organizations that have signed in support of the CTA, such as the American Association of Community Colleges and the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, saying they are widely in favor as it would make the reporting of data much easier due to the student-level data network.
She also noted the bipartisan nature of the co-sponsors in the bill, saying the support in both houses could mean the bill's potential success.
“Data should not be a partisan issue,” she said.
Roberson said making this data available is an integral part of making a functional higher education system.
“Students and parents deserve good data and deserve to have this information available,” she said. “The College Transparency Act will do exactly that.”