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Gettysburg College President Katherine Haley Will writes in The Washington Post about a Department of Education proposal that would require colleges to collect extensive dossiers on students for a national database. (Schools already give the feds aggregate data; this would be student-specific.)

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  1. Just another day in the villiage.
    They want information, and by hook or by crook, will have it.

  2. The military has been studing ways in which a skill-specific draft could be put in place. It sounds as if this could be a prelude to that. With a database of individuals and their skills, the next military “crisis” that calls for specific technology or language skills etc. can be eased by drafting low-wage workers rather than raising military pay to entice skilled workers away from the private sector.

  3. Hmm, tracking individual college students’ whereabouts and course of study wouldn’t happen to be a useful prerequisite for a “skills draft”, would it?

    http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2004/03/13/MNG905K1BC1.DTL

  4. Relax, this will just enable the government to send you personalized ultimatum-spam:

    “If you studied engineering and had three semesters of Chinese, you’re just going to LOVE our new East-Asian volunteer civil service program! Report to Fort Bragg for de-lousing and indoctrination by next Monday. Or we imprison your sister.”

  5. Wow, three posts of identical nature in the same minute! Is that a record?

  6. Can this even be done without an act of Congress? Like that’s stopped anything before.

  7. As noted in the article, the NCES already collects this information in the aggregate, via IPEDS. The aggregate information is plenty accurate enough for policy purposes, and there are enough inaccuracies and noise introduced in using a common data standard for reporting (quarter hrs vs semesters vs units, for one small example) to completely mask any additional accuracy gained by this individual data. The common standards aleady exist (for the most part) in IPEDS: my point is that the “smoothing” errors introduced by common standards are much larger than anything that will be eliminated by individual reporting, and there’s no way to eliminate some sort of common standard.

    Maybe someone has a relative in IT who needs a big contract. Oh wait, Dubya has a brother in Texas who is part owner of an educational software company. Nah, must be a coincidence.

  8. “Can this even be done without an act of Congress?”

    Unfortunately, the Buckley Amendment, which was passed in 1974 to prevent this kind of crap generally, contains an exception allowing colleges to release personal information on students to “the Secretary” (i.e., to DoE). DoE can then issue regulations saying that any institution which receives any federal educational assistance (which means all of them) has to give any information that DoE asks for.

    Someone ought to ask Senator (now retired Judge) Buckley whether he had any idea that the loophole in his statute would be exploited this way.

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