COLUMN: Selling student information to credit card companies deceitful
Sean Moyer was a National Merit Scholar. He was headed to law school. After initially attending college in Texas, he had transferred back home to OU. He was 22 years old when he committed suicide in 1998. Yet, he had 12 credit cards and $14,000 in credit card debt.
In spite of the public outcry over the abusive tactics of the financial industry, college students continue to be targeted by credit card companies throughout the nation.
Last year, Sallie Mae, an education company, reported that over half of all college students had four or more credit cards. Sixty percent reported being surprised at how high their balances had reached, and 40 percent admitted to charging items knowing that they did not have the money to pay the bill.
While the state Legislature and the OU Board of Regents have repeatedly expressed concern about the marketing of credit cards to college students, OU continues to sell student information to credit card companies under a lucrative $10 million affinity agreement with FIA Card Services — a subsidiary of Bank of America.
The university’s first affinity agreement was initially devised as a way to generate additional money for student activities by Richard Hall, the former vice president of Student Affairs.
It was originally negotiated with a small local bank that the administration could control to ensure that certain practices were maintained and students would not be exploited.
However, when it was discovered that much more money could be made, that bank was pushed aside and the contract was shopped out to the nationwide chains. All funding for student activities from that contract also disappeared.
There have been a series of attempts to prevent colleges and universities from selling student information. However, OU continues to circumvent many of these restrictions by claiming that students have consented to the release of their directory information.
The university does not mention that it sells student personal information anywhere in its policies regarding the release of student information.
However, it automatically assumes that students do not have a problem with selling their personal information to credit card companies and other commercial entities.
Students can go through an elaborate process to put a hold on their directory information. However, it is only an all-or-nothing option. They are repeatedly discouraged with warnings that these steps will prevent the institution from releasing information to potential employers and that the university will not even be able to verify the student’s attendance and enrollment.
The university’s current contract with Bank of America lasts until April 30, 2017. So, the institution cannot arbitrarily terminate this agreement. However, if OU insists upon selling students’ personal information to credit card companies, it should at least try to come clean about it and behave responsibly.
OU should fully disclose its policies to all students and afford them with the opportunity to opt-out of the system without making dire warnings and forcing an all-or-nothing choice.
It should include a personal finance course as an option in the institution’s core curriculum requirements. And it should earmark the proceeds from this contract to student activities.
— Nicholas Harrison, law and business graduate