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Department of Education endorses tracking college student records

From The Washington Post:

The controversial concept of a national student "unit" tracking system has been floating around for about two years. It was given a boost last month when Education Secretary Margaret Spellings's Commission on the Future of Higher Education released a draft report endorsing such a plan.

The idea, proponents say, is not to invade the privacy of students, but to force colleges to be more accountable to the public by revealing such information as accurate enrollment figures and financial aid percentages, as well as graduation, transfer and dropout rates. The data would come from individual students, but their identities would be protected, supporters say.

Right now, the plan has no legs. The House included in its higher education bill a prohibition on such a plan; the Senate bill ignored it; and some powerful legislators oppose it. Nonetheless, private institutions are fretting that the Department of Education will find a way around Congress to implement it.

The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities yesterday released a survey reporting that 62 percent of the respondents oppose a federal data-collection effort, with 45 percent strongly against it.

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