The House of Representatives, in an attempt to make colleges and universities accountable for rising tuition, will vote tomorrow on the College Opportunity and Affordability Act, which would make tuition prices transparent to potential students.
Among its many provisions, the act will create lists of the top 5 percent of the most expensive private and public colleges and universities. Penn State has the highest public university tuition in the nation, according to the College Board.
"The fact that Penn State is the most expensive public university in the country is fairly well known. I think the bill will have a negligible impact on the university," said Donald Heller, director of Penn State's Center for the Study of Higher Education.
Penn State spokeswoman Jill Shockey said she was unfamiliar with the bill and declined comment.
The legislation, proposed by the House's Committee on Education and Labor, also provides for the publication of a list of the top 5 percent of the least expensive schools and a list of the schools with the largest percentage increases in tuition in a three-year period, according to a press release from the committee.
"Our legislation would address those challenges [of higher education] and create a more consumer-friendly and easy-to-navigate higher education system for students and families," Rachel Racusen, spokeswoman for the House's Committee on Education and Labor, wrote in an e-mail.
Those schools with the highest percentage increases in tuition would be required to create a "Quality Efficiency Task Force" to analyze and address the factors contributing to high prices. The task force will then have to report to the U.S. Secretary of Education.
"This bill, H.R. 4137, continues our efforts to make college more affordable and accessible for all qualified students by addressing rising college prices, making textbook costs more manageable, providing new consumer protections for borrowers of federal and private student loans, simplifying the federal student aid application process and much more," Racusen wrote in an e-mail.
Still, Heller said he is not convinced by the proposed legislation that tuition prices will change.
"It will probably have little effect overall in higher education," he said. "The primary motivation is so Congress can look like they're doing something against tuition increases."
The proposed legislation also calls for the creation of a Web site, to be maintained by the Department of Education, which will display institutions' tuition and fee prices, recent price increases, per-student spending, graduation rates and popular majors, Racusen wrote.
"We want to ensure that consumers have all the information they need when making important decisions about which school best fits their education and financial needs," Racusen wrote.
A disputed part of the bill will make states that cut their higher education budget ineligible to participate in a federal program that provides them with matching funds for need-based aid. It is intended to put a stop to rising tuition prices, Racusen wrote.
"I really don't think that provision has much chance of making it into law," Heller said. "State legislators will say, 'Look, we are constrained by the economy. Why punish us as victims of a recessionary period?' "