Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Gary Schaer and Raj Mukherji to increase transparency surrounding the collection and use of student fees at New Jersey colleges and universities unanimously passed the full Assembly Thursday.
The legislation was derived from a 2016 report from the Office of the State Comptroller that highlighted current practices regarding mandatory student fees at three different educational institutions. This bill implements recommendations made in the report concerning increased regulation of these fees.
The bill (A-3625) specifies actions institutions of higher education must take to promote transparency related to mandatory student fees. The requirements include the creation of written policies about the fees, documentation of each individual fee’s justification, proper tracking of transactions related to the fees and inclusion of an explanation of each fee’s use in its description.
“Too often, a term bill will just say ‘campus fee’ or ‘school fee’ without any explanation of how the money will be used, and there’s an expectation that students will just pay,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “When many students are taking on unbearable debt in order to pay for higher education, they at least deserve to know how these fees are spent.”
“Student fees often comprise a significant portion of an already exorbitant college price tag,” said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Students and their parents deserve to know where their money is going and what the full cost will be before they make one of the biggest decisions of their life.”
The bill would also require educational institutions to provide each prospective student with a financial aid “shopping sheet” as part of their financial aid offer. The sheet would explain the costs and potential debt a student could incur by attending the school, while also including information about its graduation rate, student retention rate and student loan default rate.
“Students sometimes pay upwards of $2,000 in fees alone each semester on top of tuition that goes up year after year,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “Increasing transparency and accountability, along with the creation of a standardized financial aid shopping sheet, are just a few steps we can take to help students who continue to incur debt in pursuit of their dreams.”
Since the bill has passed in both houses, it will now head to the Governor’s desk for further consideration.