Colleges, alumni groups selling personal information

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by KELI RABON / KVUE News Defenders

kvue.com

Posted on September 22, 2011 at 10:40 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 26 at 3:49 PM

Longhorn football fans could be part of a "sold-out" crowd – one that has nothing to do with a packed game. Instead, it’s because of a contract between the Texas Exes and Bank of America that some people say “sold-out” their personal information.

Martin Egwuagu graduated from UT in 2010, and he had no idea his information could be part of the deal.

“That's actually a scary thought,” Egwuagu said.

The KVUE Defenders uncovered, Texas Exes has sold the information to Bank of America since 1992. Its current contract promises to provide the names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of alumni, faculty, ticketholders, donors, and even students. Texas Exes is guaranteed to make at least $6 million on the deal.

Texas Exes admits that it doesn't notify anyone that their personal information is being sold to Bank of America. The Association refused to go on camera but did acknowledge that it recently provided the names and addresses of 368,767 alumni - only. But at least one UT student we talked to said she's seen the offers.

“Yeah, like all of the time for Bank of America, UT Students. It's always really attractive all these things that you'll get,” UT senior Mary Dinh said.

It's also an attractive deal to universities and alumni groups, who receive royalties on each account opened.

The Texas Exes contract also allows the Association to make money when accountholders don't pay off their outstanding balance. 
 
“It's unfair that you're creating a system that you're benefiting from someone else's misfortune,” Dinh said.

“It's a very lucrative business, and it's unfortunate that that still exists,” Melissa Trevino with Consumers Union said.
 
Trevino lobbies to tighten restrictions on credit card companies, especially when it comes to students.  She says the new federal laws have helped, but not solved, the problem.
 
“We would have hoped the law would have addressed stricter provisions for any type of marketing on campus,” Trevino said.

Trevino says the average college student racks up $5,000 in credit card debt. Add to that bill the thousands in student loans that must be paid off, and it could take years for a graduating student to climb out of debt.

“They're not really aware of all the things that are associated with owning a credit card,” Trevino said.

At Texas A&M, the Association of Former Students has a 10-year, $17 million deal with Bank of America and most recently provided 257,840 names and addresses of former students.

And the Texas Tech Alumni Association has a seven-year, $3.3 million deal with Chase Bank, providing the names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of 193,000 students, faculty, alumni, and donors.
 
Some students aren't worried about who is selling information.
 
“If it's supporting the university or one of its organizations in any sort of way, I don’t know if ticketholders or donors or alumni will care that much,” UT sophomore Matt Mitchell said.

UT sophomore Angelek Marler says it's an individual's choice to sign-up.
 
“It shouldn’t be the people that mail out the lists or mail out the offers responsibility to keep you out of debt, it should be yours,” Marler said.  

But Egwuagu says, if anyone's selling his information, he wants to know first.
 
“Personally I don't like information being out there,” Egwuagu said.
 
Last year alone, Texas Exes made $2.4 million on this agreement. The Association says the money goes toward its operating expenses.
 
If you would like to have your name removed from these mailing lists, Texas Exes and Texas A&M Association of Former Students says to contact the respective organization directly.
 
Click here to see your school's policy.

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