Colleges Sell Alumni Data for Extra Cash

June 13, 2007

Does your college have a privacy policy?  I never worried whether mine did or not until I started getting credit card and line of credit applications in the mail bearing the name of my school!

Alumni Credit Card
It appears my alma mater has decided its okay to sell my name and address to Bank of America so I decided to look into their practices.  I started off by looking for a privacy policy on the school’s website but didn’t have any luck finding one. When I visited the Alumni page I ran across an ad, asking people to sign up for the WorldPoints Platinum Plus MasterCard Credit Card.  This is probably the same one that I saw the first credit application for several months back.

“Show your support with every purchase you make! For every new account that is opened and every purchase made with the card, Bank of America will make a contribution to the organization – at no additional cost to you!”

I understand the concept of encouraging alumni to sign up for the card; it’s not a bad fund raising idea. Anyone that wants to support the school can use a branded credit card whose rewards go to the college.  However, I don’t like the fact that the school is selling or giving my personal data to credit card companies without my consent.  Asking me to sign up for the card on their website is one thing, handing my information over without my consent is another.

Line of Credit
The latest piece of mail I received wasn’t even touting an alumni card; it was an application for an unsecured line of credit.  My alma mater’s name showed through the envelope window so that I wouldn’t throw it away as junk mail. 

“How much do you need?  Request up to $25,000 to pay off your high-interest credit card balances right away!”

In this case there was no attempt to spin the application as supporting the college; it appears to be simply a money grab.  I don’t know for sure that the school is being paid for my information or if they get a commission for each person that opens a line of credit but why else would they be working that closely with Bank of America?

Student Privacy
I don’t know what the school’s privacy policy is but I don’t appreciate them selling or giving my information away without my consent.  If they’re willing to give up my name and address what other information about me might they sell?  Have you had a similar experience with your alma mater?


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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4 Responses to Colleges Sell Alumni Data for Extra Cash

  • Scott

    I think someone should do some digging to find out if the colleges are selling this information without permission or if there was some waiver that signed unknowingly. I can see a class action someday.

  • Ben

    I wonder if colleges slip some clause saying they can sell your information into the paperwork that students sign when registering or graduating.

  • Patrick

    I have experienced the same thing. I have opted out of pre-approved credit card applications, but I still occasionally get them from a bank offering an “alumni” card. I also get offers for “special discount alumni rates” through Geico.

    I didn’t know they were selling the data, but it makes sense now. College alumni usually have decent paying jobs, so I bet there is a stronger market for them too.