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Higher Ed Groups Balk at U.S. Plan to Expand Loan Data System

July 30, 2013

An Education Department proposal to expand the scope and reach of its central database for student aid would violate federal law and distort the database's purposes, a group of higher education associations argued in a letter sent to department officials Monday.

The letter, sent by the American Council on Education on behalf of seven other groups, responds to a request for comment published in the Federal Register in late June, in which the Education Department's Federal Student Aid office proposed to make a set of changes to information collected by the National Student Loan Data System.

The associations' letter argues that some of the department's goals are appropriately tied to the database's original purpose, but it questions a plan to modify legal provisions related to gainful employment programs to collect information about students who do not receive federal financial aid, among other things. "[W]e do not understand how the inclusion of information about unaided students in NSLDS can be justified," they wrote.

The groups also challenged the department's plan to expand the student loan database to collect consumer protection and program evaluation data, and the department's authority to make such changes in a Federal Register notice rather than through legislation. The proposals, they write, "exceed the boundaries of the law in ways that the courts have prohibited and that distort the purposes of NSLDS."

The letter also cites numerous ways in which the department's proposal falls short of its obligations under the Federal Privacy Act.

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Doug Lederman

Doug Lederman is editor and co-founder of Inside Higher Ed. He helps lead the news organization's editorial operations, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Doug speaks widely about higher education, including on C-Span and National Public Radio and at meetings and on campuses around the country, and his work has appeared in The New York Times and USA Today, among other publications. Doug was managing editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education from 1999 to 2003. Before that, Doug had worked at The Chronicle since 1986 in a variety of roles, first as an athletics reporter and editor. He has won three National Awards for Education Reporting from the Education Writers Association, including one in 2009 for a series of Inside Higher Ed articles he co-wrote on college rankings. He began his career as a news clerk at The New York Times. He grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and graduated in 1984 from Princeton University. Doug lives with his wife, Kate Scharff, in Bethesda, Md.

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