Some lending companies with access to a national database that contains confidential information on 60 million student borrowers have repeatedly searched it in ways that violate federal rules, raising alarms about abuse of privacy, government and university officials said.
The unauthorized searching has grown so pervasive that the Education Department is considering a temporary shutdown of the government-run database to review access policies and tighten security.
Some officials worry that businesses are trolling for marketing data they can use to bombard students with mass mailings or other solicitations. . . .