NAICU Washington Update

NAICU Submits Comments on Proposed FERPA Regulations

May 24, 2011

NAICU has submitted comments on proposed changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulations, and also has joined 30 other higher education organizations in signing comments prepared by the American Council on Education.  The public comment period  closed on May 23.  (See April 11 Washington Update article)

The NAICU letter notes the association's historical support of FERPA and its objective of protecting student privacy, and includes a detailed discussion of the reasons NAICU believes student privacy protections will be eroded if the proposals are adopted.  Specifically, the proposed changes would:

  • Substantially expand those with access to student education records by permitting anyone to be designated an "authorized representative" of the handful of government and education officials currently authorized to obtain student records for a narrow set of purposes.
  • Dramatically expand the amount of information made available to these officials and their "authorized representatives."  It would do this by stretching the definition of "education program" to permit the sharing students' personal information at any point from the time they enter pre-school through their participation in the workforce. 
  • Permit the sharing of information from student education records - even if the authority to do so is only "implied," even if the local educational agency or postsecondary institution initially providing the information objects to such further disclosure.

In summation, NAICU President David L. Warren noted that ". . . our basic concern is that student privacy is being lost in the drive for an education reform model that relies heavily on longitudinal data systems.  As educators, we share the Department's desire to assure excellence, and we recognize that data is one component of improvement efforts.  However, there are other important values to protect and other, less invasive means to acquire the information that can inform better instruction."

Department officials will now review the more than 350 comments received, and will publish final regulations later this year.  (See!docketDetail;dct=PS+PR;rpp=10;po=0;D=ED-2011-OM-0002)

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