SALEM, Ore. (AP) – A bill protecting the sensitive personal information of public university students is expected to get full House approval and be signed into law by the governor.
Higher One, a Connecticut-based private financial services company that has taken over financial aid disbursements at PSU, has contracted with Portland State and Southern Oregon University to issue ID cards that can also function as debit cards.
Students who receive financial aid can activate a debit card to access funds from a private checking account. The card looks like a MasterCard and uses a 10-digit account number.
Some students were upset that the contract with Higher One called for detailed information such as name, gender, date of birth, and, most importantly, Social Security numbers. Senate Bill 243, originally intended to stop the Higher One from offering checking account services, now aims to require public universities to obtain permission from students before releasing their Social Security numbers.
But John Wykoff, executive director of the Oregon Student Association, said the Social Security number is only required if the student uses Higher One’s checking service.
While Higher One currently does not require that students give their Social Security number, the card activation web site asks for it.
Students have a different comfort level now about giving out sensitive personal information, Wykoff said. He called the bill “a first good step” in protecting students from identity theft.
Higher One recently hired George Okulitch, a lobbyist with the Tresidder Company, to work with legislators in Salem on Senate Bill 643 and has recommended that the bill contain an amendment requiring schools to offer an automatic deposit option for disbursement of financial aid. Higher One marketing director Sean Glass said that he thinks the amendment would benefit Higher One because more schools would look to the company to provide that service and that students would have more choices.
Both Portland State and Southern Oregon University amended their contracts with Higher One, making it clear that the company would not have access to Social Security numbers.
The Senate passed the bill on April 26.