Another Unit Record Data Issue

May 27, 2011

A few months ago I wrote a post arguing against the federal government’s creating a student unit record data system.  Such a data system would collect basic data about every student in every higher education institution and allow us to track student progress and college completion.  It’s a tempting idea to be sure, but it also poses a huge invasion of privacy threat.  We can, I argued, accomplish the same purposes by sampling students and giving them the option to participate or not in the data collection.

Now that proposal for a unit record data system has a new form in the Department of Education’s new proposed Gainful Employment Rule, whereby for-profit institutions and vocational programs at not-for-profits would be subject to scrutiny about how many of their students had found gainful employment in the kind of work for which they had ostensibly been prepared — and likely received federal grants and loans.

Again, tempting, but also very intrusive.  The proposed rule would have the government collect income data on individuals.  It’s a different kind of unit record data system — one that would create a massive database of information about individuals.  Today in Inside Higher Education, Daniel Solove, a Professor at the George Washington University law School, lays out the threat to privacy.

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About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
This entry was posted in Accountability and Accreditation, Regulation. Bookmark the permalink.

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