Privacy Advocates Concerned Over Proposed National Student Database

The privacy rights of students again became an issue, as an announcement of a proposed new government database was made this week. The government database would contain enrollment records on all college and university students. Currently, schools only provide individual student information to the federal government in connection with federally financed student aid. Students not receiving federal aid do not have to be reported. Overall, other school information such as enrollment, graduation, and costs are reported without identifying particular students. Under this new proposal, colleges and universities would have to provide the federal government with data on all students individually with their Social Security numbers.

The move was proposed as a means to better track education quality through more reliable statistics on graduation rates, transfers and other student information. The government asserts that the database is needed due to changes in secondary education trends. With a greater number of student transfers, and students taking longer than four year to complete a degree, the old methods do not yield significant data to hold schools accountable. The data would be kept by the National Center for Education Statistics. Several privacy organizations as well as the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities oppose the proposal.