College Groups Protest Expansion of Federal Student-Loan Database

July 30, 2013

Higher-education lobbyists are challenging the U.S. Education Department's effort to expand the reach of its student-loan database, saying the plan violates a recent court ruling and distorts the purposes of the system.

In a letter sent to the department on Monday, the American Council on Education and seven other higher-education associations write that using the National Student Loan Data System for program-evaluation and consumer-information purposes, as the agency has proposed, would "fundamentally change the system." They argue that any expansion should be made through legislation, not regulation, and they fault the department for failing to assess the privacy implications of its plan.

The letter also criticizes the department for continuing to include students who do not receive federal aid in the system, noting that a district judge recently ruled that the department did not have the authority to do so. That decision, which came in a lawsuit challenging the Education Department's "gainful employment" rule, found that adding such students to the database violated a Congressional ban on the creation of a "unit record" system for tracking students.