January 14, 2005
Jafferson City, Mo. — A non-profit corporation out of Lee's Summit that collects personal information about college-bound high schoolers will clearly disclose to the students and their parents how and if the information is used for purposes other than college recruitment. Attorney General Jay Nixon says the agreement between National Research Center for College and University Admissions (NRCCUA) and the Attorneys General of 42 states will help parents protect the privacy of their children.
NRCCUA has collected personally identifiable information from high school students for more than 15 years and shared that information primarily to aid college recruitment. The survey, distributed through high school teachers and guidance counselors or available online, solicits information such as academic, athletic, educational and extracurricular interests from the students.
The agreement, entered today in Cole County Circuit Court, follows a three-year investigation into how the information collected by NRCCUA about more than 4 million U.S. high school students each year was disseminated to commercial solicitors, one of whom was a known deceptive scholarship "finder."
"Students and their parents who are looking at colleges want to have the information used in a way that is beneficial to them being matched up with the right school," Nixon says. "NRCCUA was not upfront with them in disclosing that the survey information also was being sold to commercial entities who would use it to solicit the students with non-educational products and services. Through this agreement, NRCCUA must make it clear if the information is going to be sold in such a way, and give parents a chance to opt out of having their student's survey information used."
The investigation of the Attorneys General primarily focused on NRCCUA activities prior to February 2002. At that time, NRCCUA modified its practices on sharing student information. The corporation said it would share the information only with entities which would use it for an educational or employment-related purpose and prohibit all recipients of the information from disseminating the survey data to any entity without an educational or employment-related purpose for the information.
The agreement calls for NRCCUA to disclose clearly and conspicuously why it collects the information and the types of entities to which it is disclosed. The disclosures must be made in all NRCCUA privacy statements, and in all questionnaires, surveys, and other documents.