DENVER - Interim Attorney General John W. Suthers announced today that 42 states including Colorado have entered into a consumer protection settlement with National Research Center for College and University Admissions (“NRCCUA”) concerning NRCCUA’s collection of personal information through high school student surveys.
NRCCUA markets its surveys through high school teachers and guidance counselors and on the Internet. NRCCUA collects personal information about students taking the survey, including names, addresses, gender, date of birth, ethnic background, and academic and occupational interests. Students are also asked for a religious denomination if they express an interested in attending a religious college. More than 2 million high school students completed a NRCCUA survey in 2001.
NRCCUA touts its “Post Secondary Planning Survey” as a way to link prospective students and colleges in the selection process. NRCCUA represented that member college and universities provided its sole source of funding. In fact, two commercial firms also funded the Survey. NRCCUA further represented or implied to schools and students that it would share survey results only with colleges and universities. Instead, NRCCUA regularly sold survey results to commercial entities that solicited students to purchase educational and non-educational commercial products or services.
“Parents of high school and middle school students need to be aware that their children might be asked to complete these informational surveys as part of their college selection process,” said Interim Attorney General John Suthers. “Under federal law, parents may tell schools not to give certain surveys to their children,” Suthers said. Suthers also noted “the same right to opt out of completing these surveys is available to high school students aged 18 and older.”
Under the settlement, NRCCUA may not misrepresent how it collects or shares personal information compiled from the Survey. NRCCUA must disclose clearly and conspicuously why it collects personal information and what entities are funding the Survey. NCCRUA must cease all use of survey data collected from a student if a parent or adult high school student opts-out of completing the survey. Upon request, NRCCUA must also cease the use of all previously collected information.
As part of the settlement, NRCCUA will make a payment of $300,000 to the states to be used for attorneys’ fees and investigative costs, consumer education, litigation or for public protection or local consumer aid funds.