Several University of Miami students received unsolicited letters over the summer that contained personal information such as Social Security Numbers, driver’s license numbers and birth dates, the St. Petersburg Times reported Thursday. Letters were sent from the loan company Sallie Mae, which offered Federal Stafford loans to students.
The Times also reported the following:
It would be a violation of federal law if UM shared private data without student authorization, or if Sallie Mae initiated unprompted loan applications, the article said.
Normally, the Federal Educational Rights Privacy Act protects students’ information from being sent to lenders without authorization. However, there is a loophole in the law.
Barmak Nassirian, deputy director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers, told the Times that schools can skirt the law on a technicality if they send the private information to lenders after students are accepted to the university but before they enroll and the federal privacy rules take effect.
Sallie Mae never initiates loan applications without the express permission from the school, which would come in the form of a federal “school certification” document that includes privileged information, said Martha Holler, managing director for corporate communications at Sallie Mae.
Salle Mae issued at least 96 percent of loans at UM in 2006, reported Student Marketmeasure, a company that compiles federal aid data.
Letters were sent to sutreferencing loan applications “initiated on your behalf” by the university, it prompted many ethical questions.
Unsolicited loan applications aren’t in students’ best interests, said Luke Swarthout, higher education advocate for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
“It’s disturbing that students would have their information released without their approval…” Swarthout told the Times. “We want students to think hard about taking on debt, and not just be shoehorned into federal student loans.”
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