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Higher-Education Groups Seek to Protect Student-Privacy Law

The American Council on Education and nine other higher-education groups filed a legal brief today arguing that the University of Illinois does not, as a federal judge ruled in March, have a choice to reject federal funds and release students’ records. The federal law known as Ferpa protects the privacy of those records at institutions that receive federal funds, and when the Chicago Tribune sued the university for information on applicants possibly involved in an admissions scandal, the judge ruled that Ferpa didn’t technically prohibit its release (the university appealed the decision and can legally withhold the records until the case is resolved). Reversing the ruling is the only way to resolve it, according to ACE and the other groups. In the 2010 fiscal year, their brief said, the University of Illinois received more than $594-million in federal aid, including $521-million in student loans and financial assistance. “The district court’s conclusion that the university has a ‘choice’ to reject federal education funding misunderstands the realities of higher education,” ignores a federal appellate ruling involving Miami University, and destroys privacy protections for students at public colleges, it says.

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