College price transparency bill advances toward final vote in Alaska Legislature

By: James Brooks, Alaska Beacon

Sen. Rob Myers, R-North Pole, smiles while talking to another senator on Monday, May 16, 2022, in the Alaska Senate at Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

The Alaska House Education Committee on Monday gave its unanimous support for a price transparency bill aimed at the University of Alaska.

If Senate Bill 13 becomes law, the state university system will be required to list the cost of course materials, including textbooks, in its course catalog.

“This bill has got a simple concept: We’re trying to give students as much information as possible to financially plan as they’re signing up for their classes,” said Sen. Robert Myers, R-North Pole and the sponsor of the bill.

The state Senate passed SB 13 in a 19-1 vote last year, and the education committee was its only stop before a vote of the full House.

“I think it’s a great idea. I want people to be as informed as possible to help them budget,” said Rep. Jamie Allard, R-Eagle River and co-chair of the education committee, after Monday’s vote.

SB 13 is modeled on similar legislation in other states, Myers said.

In a fiscal note provided to the Legislature, the university system said it could implement the bill as part of an ongoing IT modernization program.

University officials cautioned that while they can absorb the financial cost, there will be a time cost as well.

“Requiring professors to focus on administrative tasks takes away from the core educational mission. New professors are particularly vulnerable to compliance,” the fiscal note stated.