The US Department of Education has issued a Request for Information (RFI) regarding the use of APIs in higher education data, student aid programs and processes. The goal of the RFI is to gather ideas that will increase the openness of higher education data, processes, and aid to students and families. The RFI is directed towards all interested parties, and submissions will be accepted through June 2, 2014.
David Soo, US Department of Education Senior Policy Advisor, points towards President Obama's call for innovation in college access and comments:
"So, today, we are asking you – student advocates, designers, developers, and others – to share your ideas on how APIs could spark innovation and enable processes that can serve students better. We need you to weigh in on a Request for Information (RFI) – a formal way the government asks for feedback – on how the Department could use APIs to increase access to higher education data or financial aid programs."
At this point, the RFI is purely an information gathering exercise. The department would like to hear ideas surrounding a broad range of potential services and applications. For example, the RFI requests suggestions on how third party apps and organizations can use APIs to ease data access to low income families, first generation students, non-English speakers, and students with disabilities. Additionally, the department seeks ideas surrounding access to data that is currently free (e.g. FAFSA) through third parties who currently charge for services. More general questions about securing access, and providing increased openness through new APIs are also proposed.
While the department is dedicated to exploring how it can be more open, it clearly states the substantial need for privacy protection. Thus, it has clear guidelines on keeping confidential information protected throughout the RFI process and encourages entries that address security in a more open environment. Those interested can learn how to submit entries, guidelines, policies, and more at the RFI notice.