Laura Chapman shares her research with us:

The Gates Foundation has also announced that the creation of a centralized federal database to track students from preK through college, the workforce and beyond is one of their top advocacy priorities for 2017.”

This not a trivial matter.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has set its sights on data continuity from cradle to the workplace. In an unusual move, it has announced its data-priorities for postsecondary education. This initiative is for a national and substantially privatized postsecondary data gathering system, one that even calls for a Congressional modification of the Higher Education Act.

This Gates initiative is designed to allow non-profit and for-profit tracking of data on individual students as they move from high school into postsecondary programs (higher education and vocational certificate training) and then into the workforce for one year following the student’s exit from a post-secondary program, then again at the five year mark from that exit, and again at the ten year mark. All of that data-mongering would be aided by data from US Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (earnings, region and industry of employment, migration patterns and career pathways).

The biggest obstacle to this grandiose vision is the Higher Education Act (1974) which prohibits the government from creating a “student unit record system” with unique identifiers for individual students (e.g., SS numbers). Gates has been mustering support for a total by-pass of this federal privacy law. if this initiative succeeds, I believe it will also place in jeopardy current privacy laws bearing on elementary and secondary education records. Here is some background.

In August 2015, the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP)—created and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—first convened a working group of national postsecondary data experts “to discuss ways to move forward a set of emerging options for improving the quality of the data infrastructure in order to inform state and federal policy conversations.” The Gates Foundation is famous for setting up surrogate organizations like IHEP and soft selling the real agenda as if it is only a “conversation.”

The Gates Foundation is using IHEP as if it is a think tank. The Foundation commissioned IHEP to produce almost a dozen papers to pump up the “necessity” for a national postsecondary data system. Almost all of these papers offer reasons for changing the Higher Education Act which firmly prohibits the creation of “student unit record system.” Most of the papers are framed to suggest that the law needs to be changed in order to know how much a college degree is worth and how to achieve equity and greater efficiency in postsecondary education. All of the papers are here

The paper in the link below shows the intent to build a national “post-secondary” data ecosystem that would “include information held by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ National Directory of New Hires , the Social Security Administration’s wage and earnings data, the Internal Revenue Service’s tuition and required fees and financial aid data, the US Department of Defense’s military recruiting data, and data from the US Department of Veterans Affairs “(p. 1).

The paper in the link below specifically tries to make the “case” for changing federal law to allow for nationalized “student unit record system.”

The paper in the link below shows the intent to connect the proposed national post-secondary data system with state longitudinal data systems (present in all but three states), including high school transcripts for individual students. The proposed connection would require enhancing the “interoperability” of National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) data system with state longitudinal data systems. The NSC has records for over 252 million students—Transcripts, Reverse Transfers, Financial Aid, Credential Verifications–and research based on that information. The state longitudinal data systems have been funded by Gates (Data Quality Campaign) and USDE since 2005.

This is a major claim: “There is currently no facility to provide self-service access to aggregate NSC data beyond the established reports that are published and distributed free of charge by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (these include annual high school benchmarks for post-secondary access and progression, current term enrollments, annual retention, persistence and completion rates, as well as regular reports on student mobility and degrees awarded). There are also opportunities to further enhance the interoperability of NSC with state longitudinal data systems. These systems are currently able to link their high school graduates with subsequent postsecondary enrollments and progress, but they would realize far more powerful results and benefits by leveraging NSC’s ability to integrate more comprehensive data directly from school transcripts (Executive Summary, p. 2-3).

I found no mention of the commercial ventures tied to the National Student Clearinghouse or the paper-thin privacy policy it has. That is a big deal when you look at the list of its “Partners” with “other industry and technology leaders.” Here are three of these, each harboring many others.

“Ellucian is the world’s leading provider of software, services and insight to higher education. Ellucian helps 2,400 institutions in 40 countries with various services. Ellician’s website also invites potential “strategic partners” to contact them the company if they can “complement and extend our core offerings.” “Alliance partners” of Ellucian are offered tiers of services and co-branding opportunities as outlined here

Hobsons helps more than 12 million students around the globe identify their strengths, explore careers, create academic plans, and find the right college match. Hobsons partners with more than 10,000 schools, colleges, and universities to better prepare students for success.

Hobsons, like Ellucian has many “strategic partnerships.” Here are a few: ACT Engages BenchPrep for an Enhanced Personalized ACT Online Prep Program; Gallup; Human Esources; RoadTrip; Blackboard; Career Key®; ComEVO,LLC (Communication Evolved); The Common Application; Dell Boomi; EdMin; Experian® Data Quality; Front Rush; GeoLabs (based in UK, a call and marketing service for 65 higher ed institutions, including some in USA); iData Management for Higher Education; IntelliResponse; x2VOLpowered by intelliVOL; Kira Talent (a video admissions platform); mongoose (responds to inquiries with personalized “mass texts” — from a phone, tablet or computer); parchment (career and college planning resources with 13 “partners” able to tap K-12 data); PEARSON; Ruffalo Noel Levitz (software, and management services for higher education enrollment and fundraising); Sallie Mae® (publicly traded consumer bank with newly named loan management, servicing and asset recovery business, Navient Corporation); Teen Life® (Catholic ministry for high schools).

Oracle —multinational computer technology corporation allows hardware and software to work together — in the cloud and in the data center. Oracle enables its IT customers — 400,000 of them in more than 145 countries around the world to design and integrate databases. For example, Oracle Integration Cloud Service offers more than fifty pre-built adapters for apps including Ariba, Concur, LinkedIn, Salesforce, Slack, Twilio, Twitter and more.

If this initiative from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation succeeds, it will also enable links to information in the Gates-funded “Data Quality Campaign” and USDE-funded Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) for pre-K to 12 education—data from all but three states. Anyone who thinks that student test scores and the student identifications attached to them are “secure” is probably mistaken.

Politico has publicized that the Gates Foundation, New America, the US Chamber of Commerce and the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association – have called on the federal government to track students as they move through and beyond college.

Because the Higher Education Act prohibits the government from doing so through a “student unit record” system,” Gates has launched a pilot program at the University of Texas as if to say, this is possible and here is the proof. The details are not clear, but US Census data will be included in the pilot–earnings, region and industry of employment, migration patterns and career pathways for UT graduates from 2003 to the present.

Unbelievable, especially if you are familiar with the Gates-funded Data Quality Campaign that begins with health records of infants.