An amendment to ban a federal unit record system was added to the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008. As a result, the federal government cannot collect and report personally identifiable information on college students. Those who supported the ban expressed concerns with privacy and security of data as well as the potential for federal overreach.

Lifting the ban on collecting student-level data by the federal government, is being debated by the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking.

There are three main arguments for lifting this ban, in spite of the prior warnings on privacy and security of student records:
1) To improve affordability and access
2) Hold institutions accountable for better outcomes
3) Provide a better system of debt repayment or relief for those already struggling with student debt.

All of these seem like reasonable goals but what is the trade off and does this guarantee the federal government will be able to accomplish these lofty goals?

1) How does accessing personal information on students guarantee this will “improve affordability and access?” What drives up the cost of tuition?  According to The Federal Reserve, it was the credit supply.  In other words federal financial aid drives up tuition and college costs.  Accessing personal data wont fix that problem, ending the subsidies would.

2) Who said the federal government should be “holding institutions accountable for better outcomes?”  Isn’t that what consumers do?  When did we give the federal government the power and control to hold these higher institutions accountable for better outcomes?  Federal legislators have enough trouble holding themselves accountable for the decisions they’ve made.

3) Personal information is now needed to figure out a better system when dealing with the problem of student debt?  Increasing government student aid has given colleges an avenue to raise tuition.
Student aid expansion not only drove up the cost of tuition, it drove up student debt.  For each additional dollar in financial aid, tuition increased by about 65 cents. The beneficiaries of federal aid are schools, not the students attending them.

None of these reasons given for lifting this ban guarantees any real results and it puts our private and personal information in the hands of federal bureaucrats.

On Friday, Oct. 21st there was an important hearing in Washington D.C.. Below is testimony from Emmett McGroarty with the American Principles Project. Emmett mentions in his testimony the pushback from parents if the tracking of students is opened up to the Federal government.
You can watch his testimony below (it should be queued up, but if not go to 2:45:48)


Bill Gates’ cronies are asking to lift the ban on the National Student Unit Record. So are Republicans  Paul Ryan, Senator Marco Rubio, many Democrats and Edtech.

There is no need to track students from pre-school (pre-natal in some states) through college and into the workforce, when we know the federal programs that contribute to the existing problems go unchecked.  Adding personally identifiable information to a federal data-base doesn’t fix these problems, it ignores them and adds additional potential problems as Emmett McGroarty describes in his testimony.

It’s important to start pushing back now and stop this.  There is a Nov 14 deadline to submit comments before the next hearing.

Ann Marie Banfield currently volunteers as the Education Liaison for Cornerstone Action in New Hampshire. She has been researching education reform for over a decade and actively supports parental rights, literacy and academic excellence in k-12 schools. You can contact her at: [email protected]