Press release: The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy opposes the College Transparency Act and overturning the federal ban on a student unit record system


For Immediate Release

November 1, 2017

Contact: Rachael Stickland, [email protected], 303-204-1272

The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy opposes the College Transparency Act and overturning the federal ban on a student unit record system

The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy urges sponsors and supporters of the H.R. 2434 – College Transparency Act (CTA) to reconsider their support for this bill which would require the non-consensual collection by the federal government of the personally identifiable information of every student attending a post-secondary institution. Our members, made up of parents and privacy advocates from throughout the country, believe strongly that the 2008 Higher Education Act’s ban on the creation of a federal unit-record system should not be overturned by the CTA, and that any attempt to authorize a national student database would create an unacceptable and unaccountable surveillance system that would place our citizens at risk.

In recent months it has become clear that data held by post-secondary institutions and government agencies are under increased threat of breaches and cyberattacks. Even our “best protected” national data has been breached, including the hacking in recent years of the National Security Agency (NSA), Department of Defense (DoD), the Office of Personnel and Management (OPM), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Specifically, the U.S. Department of Education was found to have weaknesses in four out of five security categories according to a 2015 security audit by the Inspector General’s Office.

Said Rachael Stickland, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy: “It’s inconceivable that Congress should entertain legislation that would increase federal collection of personal student data at a time when they have demonstrably proven they are unable to protect what data they already hold.”

Moreover, individual student data held at the federal level could be used in the future as a go-to repository of information for purposes beyond their originally prescribed intent. Even if the CTA specifies permissible uses of the data today, no Congress can limit the actions of future administrations once the data are in the government’s possession. The bill also allows for the expansion and collection of more categories of student data by the Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) without authorization by Congress.  This could easily lead to widespread abuse of personal information for political or ideological gain.

While we agree in principle that students seeking to attend post-secondary institutions should have sufficient information to make informed decisions, it’s possible to do so without the creation of a national student database. New NCES surveys  provide previously unavailable statistics on “nontraditional” populations, making passage of the CTA an unnecessary overreach by the federal government at a time when we should minimize data collection rather than expand it.