Ohio House passes higher ed transparency bill

Credit: Avery Kreemer

Credit: Avery Kreemer

The Ohio House voted 88 to 1 to require the state’s higher education institutions to tell incoming students up front how much money their education will cost, and how much they can expect to make right out of college with a degree in their chosen major.

The financial transparency bill was sponsored by Rep. Adam Mathews, R-Lebanon, who said the detailed financial cost breakdown will help students and families “set themselves up for success” when taking on continued learning. It heads to the Senate for further consideration.

“This was an original bill that came out of my door-knocking and speaking to people around Warren County, and we’re excited to bring it over to the Senate,” Mathews said of House Bill 27.

If passed and signed into law this year, the bill will give new students in school year 2024-2025 a thorough idea of how much higher education will cost. Higher education institutions will be required to total the sums of fees, room and board, and tuition and outline the student’s expected monthly loan payment upon graduation. Higher education institutions would also have to provide incoming students with income data from recent graduates to indicate future earning potential.

University of Cincinnati professor Stephen Mockabee testified on behalf of Ohio’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors earlier this year. He told lawmakers that his organization supported greater financial transparency but considered the future earnings potential data as “problematic.”

Mockabee said income data from recent graduates might not accurately depict how much money a graduate of a specific field can expect to make. Mockabee said a humanities major would see considerably less money fresh out of college compared to accounting majors, but that gap tends to close as time goes on.

The American Association of University Professors representative asked lawmakers to consider requiring greater detail in the financial breakdowns. He broadly attributed rising education costs to a lack of state funding and increased spending on non-academic costs.

“Often students and their families are not aware that tuition and fees are spent on endeavors far removed from the student’s education, such as subsidizing athletics,” Mockabee said. “Making explicit where their money is going would be a positive step.”

The bill was not amended with the suggested change, but Mathews said schools can add additional context, should they choose to.

Rep. Jim Thomas, R-Jackson Twp., who co-sponsored the bill alongside Mathews, characterized HB27 as a “new level of transparency” for parents and students that will allow them to make better decisions on education.

Local Rep. Jennifer Gross, R-West Chester, was the only lawmaker to vote against it.

Mathews said HB27 is the first to be passed by a freshman legislator in the 135th General Assembly, which he said was an honor.

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