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.

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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