Friday, April 6, 2007

Students Come First

April 6, 2007- This past month I was meeting with a group of college-bound students like I often do to discuss the evolution of the “going to college” process. The subject turned to “recruiting”. These students wanted to know how so many colleges and universities got access to their personal information to clog their email accounts and stuff their mailboxes. A junior named Corey was amazed that a small liberal arts college in California was trying to recruit her when she clearly knew, and had indicated to her counselor, that she wanted to attend one of the dozens of business schools in Boston. She was glad to find a viewbook from Bentley and Babson, which her counselor requested, but she said the number of brochures she tossed was a shame. I asked the group to think back to when they registered to take the SAT. I reminded them of all the personal information they gave the College Board at that time.

During the same focus group, Rick was a senior who used a web portal at one point during his application process- unfortunately, it wasn’t Connect! Now with his calculator, he’s evaluating his options and like several hundred thousand students like him, he is struggling with the cost gap between the tuition and his financial aid awards. Rick agreed with Corey about the viewbooks piling up in his trash can, but he warned her about what was coming next – the lenders. In addition to the “preferred lenders”, Rick said he was being bombarded by loan offers from people who he had never met. He wanted to know how they knew he needed money. I asked him to think back to when he registered for the retail web portal. I reminded him of all the personal information he provided to get online.

One of the many reason that I meet with young people in the “going to college” process is to figure out how we can make Connect! better for students. I’m learning our commitment to privacy and security (click here to view our Privacy Policy) is helping us become one of the most preferred web portals available, but it appears that privacy isn’t a priority for everyone. This week, Attorney General Cuomo announced that several colleges/universities had agreed to sign his Code of Conduct that focused on removing any deceptive practices relative to student lender/college practices. At the same time, a jury awarded a settlement of $4.5M to CollegeNet as a result of Xap’s violations of the Lanham Act. Ironically the Xap settlement was focused on this retail web portal’s deceptive practices relative to selling personal student information to student loan companies. (Click here for a summary of the judgement.)

As several State Departments and State Student Loan Authorities endorse many of the XAP Powered Mentor sites, there seems to be a disconnect between helping students transition into college and actually doing what’s best for students. Fortunately, at ConnectEdu we’ve made that connection from the start. I’m excited about the possibility of introducing Connect! to more colleges as these governments that implemented mentor sites start looking for a more viable, student-friendly solution. As we continue to expand Connect! across states like Maryland and Virginia, our most recent additions, we’ll continue to help students in the “going to college” process with best practices that put students first.

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