Dancer bill greatly expanding college cost transparency gets committee approval

Dancer bill greatly expanding college cost transparency gets committee approval

Ron Dancer

TRENTON, N.J. – Today the Assembly Higher Education Committee released Assemblyman Ron Dancer’s bill expanding current law to require that all students attending a college or university in New Jersey receive the same kind of cost disclosure information that only prospective students currently must receive.

Understanding the true costs of college requires evaluating available financial aid, tuition and fees, books and more. 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, New Jersey passed a 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. However, the law does not require similar shopping sheets to go to students currently enrolled and continuing their studies at the school.

“A quality college education can help prepare students for rewarding careers and, unfortunately, put them tens of thousands of dollars into debt,” said Dancer (R-Ocean). “It’s imperative that we equip students and families with the tools to help them determine the most affordable path to a college degree. 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.”

The financial aid shopping sheet includes information on net costs and estimated debt that the student will incur in attending the institution. It also includes information on the different types of student loans and available work study funds.

“New Jersey residents have more than $43 billion in student loans. Graduates of the institutions in our state carry the seventh highest student debt in the nation,” said Dancer. “Both new and returning students need to fully understand the annual costs that come with their education. 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 in the state saw the biggest increase in student 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 (A3872/S1877) unanimously on Monday.