The Oregon Legislature passed two bills on Thursday that look to increase transparency around costs students are required to pay.
House Bill 2542 will require all public universities and colleges to prominently display the mandatory fees they’re charging students.
It will require the institutions to publish online the specific cost of the fees set by administrators that are required of students. Colleges and universities also required to indicate where the fee money is being allocated.
State legislators on Thursday also passed House Bill 2919 which will require the higher education institutions to clearly display the costs of course materials, such as textbooks, at the time students are registering for classes.
The bill will require the institutions to display the course material costs for no fewer than 75% of classes. Legislators said during hearings earlier this year that the 25% leeway will account for any late changes in instructors teaching classes or changes in materials.
Greater transparency around mandatory costs has been a priority of university students, as the price of higher education has continued to rise.
“This term I paid $982.41 in fees. I wasn’t aware of the fees I had to pay, and for the most part, I don’t know what happens to the money I’m charged,” Kassidy Fegles-Jones, a sophomore at Western Oregon University, testified during a legislative hearing earlier this year in support of HB 2542.
“We thank our legislators for passing these extremely important bills, which will start to increase both the transparency and financial accountability of our postsecondary institutions when it comes to the money they are charging students through fees as well as required course materials,” the Oregon Student Association said in a statement after the bills passed on Thursday. OSA is a nonprofit that has been supporting and advocating for these bills and similar legislation in Salem.
OSA said the legislation is only one piece of the puzzle. The organization said, Oregon higher education also needs to see increased investment from the state, more financial aid funding and fewer tuition hikes.
“Transparency is certainly a very important piece of the equation, and when HB 2542 and HB 2919 become law, students, families, and the Higher Education Coordinating Commission will all have much more information at their fingertips to understand the cost of education,” OSA said.
The bills now head to Gov. Kate Brown for her signature.
If signed into law, the requirement for HB 2542 starts in the upcoming 2021-22 school year. Requirements for HB 2919 will begin in the 2022-23 school year.