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Higher Education Groups Concerned New FERPA Rules Unravel Student Privacy Protections

May 24, 2011


ACE and a group of higher education associations responded yesterday to the Department of Education’s plan to revise the regulations governing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

The department released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for FERPA on April 8 citing as justification for the proposed changes its desire to promote initiatives that support the robust use of educational data in statewide longitudinal data systems. The 2009 economic stimulus bill conditioned receipt of some funds on state efforts to develop or expand these databases to provide greater links between K–12, postsecondary and work force data in an attempt to better inform educational reform initiatives.

“We share the department’s commitment to educational excellence, and we are actively involved in a variety of ways to promote this goal. However, we believe the proposed regulations jeopardize important FERPA protections by expanding the number of individuals who may access personally identifiable information without consent, the basis on which they may obtain that access and the ability to re-disclose it to other parties,” the associations write in their comments.

The groups also are concerned that the NPRM cuts the current requirement that the authority to collect student data must be established by federal, state or local law. They believe it will create significant administrative challenges for college and universities, which may begin to receive requests for data without a clear understanding of the requester’s authority or how the data will be protected.

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