Letter to the Gainesville Sun

December 06, 2007

Letters to the Editor
Gainesville Sun

To the Editor: 

Thank you for drawing attention to the major issue of a possible national database of college students' records in your article, "Commission proposes federal tracking of students,"published on July 12.

As noted in the article, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities(NAICU) is vigorously opposed to such a national database.

Our most significant concern about it is its threat to student privacy. For well over 30 years,the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act has protected sensitive student records frompublic scrutiny. With very narrow and limited exceptions within educational institutions, student-specific confidential data can be released only with the written approval of thestudent. This proposal would take control away from the student and give it to the federalgovernment.

We don't believe that simply enrolling in college should trigger permanent entry into a federal registry. As you reported, the rationale for this major compromise of individual students' ight to privacy is that it would provide greater understanding of college graduation andretention rates nationally.

Accountability to our stakeholders is important to NAICU institutions. Overall, private colleges have the highest graduation rates in the country – rates that would be reported aseven higher under a unit record data system. However, we just don't see that making institutions look better is a sufficient reason to sacrifice student privacy.

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