In a Reagan Administration effort to track down the relatively few eligible college students who have failed to register for the military draft, the Education Department will provide the Selective Service System with the names of financial-aid applicants, federal officials said last week.
Secretary of Education William J. Bennett, announcing an agreement between the two agencies at a joint press conference, estimated the current compliance rate at more than 98 percent for the more than 15 million students required to register this year.
A 1982 law known as the Solomon Amendment requires male recipients of federal college aid to register for the draft.
Under the new agreement, Education Department files on all students who applied for or received Pell Grants in the 1984-85 school year will be sent to the Selective Service by the first week of February. In this and following years, the department will release the latest year’s files around Oct. 1.
A “computer match” process will check the aid-applicant list against the draft-registration rosters. The cost of each computer match is $40,000; the Education Department’s share of the cost is $10,000.
The lists of applicants for Pell Grants--which aid low-income students-- include those who receive other forms of federal financial aid, but not Guaranteed Student Loans.
The Selective Service director, Thomas K. Turnage, and the author of the 1982 legislation, Representative Gerald B. Solomon, Republican of New York, appeared at the press conference with Mr. Bennett.
The Solomon Amendment has been controversial since its inception, when college and university officials expressed concern at their prospective enforcement role.
Last year, however, the Education Department announced that it was withdrawing a proposed regulation that would have required institutions to verify that aid applicants had registered for the draft. The new arrangement does not place any administrative burden on colleges and universities, Mr. Bennett said.
The agreement “will not only protect the federal taxpayer, but also fulfill our obligation to those millions of fine young men who have registered to serve their country if ever needed,” the Secretary said.
But the department’s plan to share information with another agency is part of a larger debate, some critics contend.
Jerry Berman, chief legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the arrangement coincides with what the A.C.L.U. sees as a widespread effort by the Administration to promote the exchange of information between agencies. Such exchanges, he maintained, are an “abuse” of the Privacy Act of 1974, which established controls on access to government records by federal agencies and private citizens.
“Information turned over [to the government] for one purpose should not be used for another government purpose without notice to the citizen and his consent,” said Mr. Berman.
A version of this article appeared in the January 29, 1986 edition of Education Week