Idea Whose Time Has Come?

WASHINGTON — Right after the election in November, it seemed that Congressional Republicans and the Obama administration had reached a rare policy consensus: both supported requiring colleges to disclose more information about graduates’ outcomes in general, and a bill from Senators Marco Rubio and Ron Wyden that would require the disclosure of salary data (among other statistics) in particular.

But the latest version of that bill, introduced Thursday, revives one of the more politically controversial policy proposals in higher education. Like the previous version introduced in the last Congress, the legislation, the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act, would require colleges to collect and disaggregate more data for the federal government. Colleges would make information public about students’ salaries by major and program; graduation and remediation rates; success rates for students who receive a Pell Grant or veterans’ benefits; and other benchmarks not currently collected in such detail.

This time, though, the bill’s sponsors, who include Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, as well as Rubio and Wyden, also call for a federal “unit record” database — a database administered by the Education Department that could track students through college and into the work force.

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