NU refuses to give away undergrads’ information

Anne Gooch

Despite a university policy of not giving out student information to credit card companies, one company is getting ahold of students through the alumni association.

The Northwestern Alumni Association has an credit card contract with MBNA that gives the school money for providing names of graduate students in exchange for marketing a Northwestern credit card. MBNA does, however, market to graduate students at NU and alumni.

The plan is similar to the one that the Washington State University Alumni Association has with MBNA. MBNA markets a Washington State University credit card — and in return, the university releases student names and addresses to MBNA.

The alumni association at THE SCHOOL received a lump sum in return for student and alumni names and contact information at the time the contract was signed. The school receives additional revenue when new applications are submitted, said Keith Lincoln, executive director of the university’s alumni association.

Students at Kellogg Graduate School of Management said they might receive solicitations, but they ignore them anyway.

“If I see ‘zero percent APR,’ I just throw it away,” said Kellogg student Eric Horler. Horler said he is not surprised by the fact that NU solicits its graduate students, though, since most credit cards require a minimum income level.

Under the contract, MBNA is prohibited from soliciting undergraduates for the special NU credit card, said Catherine Stembridge, executive director of the Northwestern Alumni Association.

“A lot of alumni associations do market to undergraduates,” Stembridge said. “At Northwestern we do not.”

But things are different at Washington State. MBNA periodically sends solicitations to about 15 to 20 percent of undergraduates at Washington State, Lincoln said.

“If we had our druthers, we would not be soliciting students,” Lincoln said. “We try to keep it as low-key as possible.”

He said the reason they do allow MBNA to solicit students is because it was a mandatory part of Washington State’s contract with MBNA.

“The students’ part of it brings in maybe 1 percent of revenue,” Lincoln said.

Students at Washington State usually receive a school hat or sweatshirt for filling out a credit card application.

The revenue generated by each school’s deal with MBNA goes directly back into the alumni association’s operating budget.

“It’s an effective revenue producer,” Stembridge said.

She added that the MBNA deal has helped fund programs such as alumni education.

It is against NU’s policy to release student information to credit card companies or to any other off-campus vendors, said Suzanne Anderson, university registrar. “We work so hard to protect student information, and I can’t tell you how they get it.”

Anderson said credit card companies may have gotten student information from the Ph directory before it was made private. She also said she worries about off-campus vendors getting ahold of a paper copy of the student directory.

Still, many undergraduates say they receive solicitations — both in the mail and over the phone — from other sources.

Weinberg junior Andy King said he thinks it is more common for students who live in dorms to get phone calls and advertisements in the mail than for students who live away from campus. Since King moved off-campus, he said credit card companies contact him less frequently.

“Getting those phone calls is obnoxious,” King said. “If I wanted a credit card, I’d ask for one.”