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Legal Proposals Could Affect College Quality And Cost

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Big changes might be coming to higher education.

Tax legislation working its way through Congress could affect college expenses for the next generation of students and potentially restrict the breadth of information they'd be able to access on campus. Another bill would require colleges to report the graduation rate and average income of students.

According to USA Today, clauses in either the Senate or House versions of the GOP tax bill would eliminate tax deduction of student loan interest and tax exemption of graduate students' university-given tuition reductions. Tax-exempt bonds for educational institutions would also be eradicated, as would the Lifetime Learning Credit for students.

Government savings might be pushed onto students. Itemized deductions eliminated from certain charitable contributions might affect taxpayers' likelihood to donate. The ability to tax undergraduate and graduate university employees on educational discounts might cause enrollment numbers to drop. Combined with inflation, tuition costs could jump.

In another potential change, the FCC's move to abandon net neutrality rules might hinder the quality of educational institutions, The Washington Post reports.

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A 2017 study by the Babson Survey Research Group revealed that online studying increased by 11 percent between 2012 and 2015. Online research library databases exist at almost every college, combining information from multiple internet service providers.   

If net neutrality is dropped and ISPs begin to charge users for access to their content, then colleges will be forced to choose which providers to feature and which ones to exclude. It is unlikely that most colleges would be able to afford them all.

The result is that students could be charged extra money so that universities could pay the ISPs. Students' ability to use high-performing or multi-platform content would decline, as would their access to pre-existing research.

It's unclear whether moving away from net neutrality would ultimately end up diminishing the value of education, thus impacting the earning potential of students. That data would be tracked if bipartisan companion bills introduced in both the House and the Senate pass.

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The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act of 2017, introduced on Dec. 1 by GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, would require colleges and universities to report graduation rates, student income after graduation by major, rate of students who go on to graduate school, federal debt rates, and loan default rates, among other statistics, The Ripon Advance reports.

The bill is also backed by Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter and Democratic Reps. Andre Carson and Scott Peters. The Senate bill is supported by Republican Marco Rubio and Democrats Ron Wyden and Mark Warner.

All of that information would require a complex and secure data transmission system in place by 2020. According to FCW, the Department of Education would use an encryption method called secure multi-party computation to protect any personal data from being leaked or misused, while at the same time allowing multiple parties to contribute to and analyze it.

The bill is expected to get some pushback from the Republican chairs of the House and Senate committees, who have opposed similar bills in the past.

An MSN poll reported by Business Insider found that Democrats and Republicans shared many opinions about college -- except on issues involving its cost.

Liberals were evenly split on whether a college education was worth its price, while nearly two-thirds of conservatives said it was not worth the price. Meanwhile, the poll also found that about two-thirds of Republicans believe that students should pay for college; three-fourths of Democrats think it should be free. Proposals to change the cost of higher education are similarly split along partisan lines.

Sources: Business Insider, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Ripon Advance, FCW / Featured Image: Aaron Hawkins/Flickr / Embedded Images: PurchY0/Wikimedia Commons, COD Newsroom/Flickr

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