Dancer bill expanding transparency of college costs for both current and prospective students goes to governor

Dancer bill expanding transparency of college costs for both current and prospective students goes to governor

Ron Dancer

TRENTON, N.J. – Currently enrolled college students could soon receive the same cost disclosure information that is now only provided to prospective students of a New Jersey college or university under a bill sponsored by Assemblyman Ron Dancer and passed in Monday’s Assembly voting session.

The bill (A3872/S1877) expands the current law requiring colleges and universities to provide prospective students with a breakdown of all the costs in a financial aid guide called a shopping sheet. The law was in response to a state comptroller audit that found schools were obscuring mandatory fees that accounted for more than a third of a student’s bill.

“Every student, not just prospective ones, deserves a shopping sheet because colleges and universities often raise tuition every year and a student’s financial aid eligibility can change from one semester to the next,” Dancer (R-Ocean) explained. “Understanding the true costs of college requires evaluating available financial aid, tuition and fees, books and more. It’s imperative that we equip students and families with the tools to help them determine the most affordable path to a college degree.”

The financial aid shopping sheet includes information on net costs and estimated debt that the student will incur. It also details the types of loans students are eligible for and the percentage of students from the institution who defaulted on their loans.

“A quality college education can help prepare students for rewarding careers and, also unfortunately, puts them into debt that can hold them back from buying homes and moving on with their lives,” Dancer said. “Given the fact that New Jersey residents have more than $43 billion in student loans, it is evident we have to do all we can to help students and their families avoid crippling debt.”

According to a report from the Institute for College Access & Success, New Jersey college graduates carry an average of $33,566 in student loan debt. Graduates of the institutions in the state carry the seventh highest student debt in the nation. Students saw the biggest increase in debt over the last 15 years. In 2004, students left school with an average of $16,200 in debt and by 2019, average debt levels had increased three times faster than inflation.

The Senate passed the bill unanimously in January.