Lane Community College
March 31, 2000
RE: Comments on the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) notice of proposed rule making (NPRM) on consumer privacy provisions mandated by the Financial Services Act of 1999 (Gramm-Leach-Bliley [G-L-B] Act).
We believe that the rules to implement the Financial Services Act of 1999 should specifically exclude colleges and universities from falling within the definition of a "financial institution."
The proposed rule making under this act is to implement a series of consumer privacy provisions. Students, who are our institutional customers or consumers, have existing privacy protection under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974, as amended. In addition, the protections FERPA provides appear to meet the intent and/or requirements of the proposed rules. In some cases the privacy protections under FERPA are stronger than the proposed FTC rules.
The proposed rules require both initial and annually renewed notice to customers about privacy practices. The college notifies prospective and current students about their privacy rights through the college's catalogue, policies on the college Web page, and through each terms class schedule. We also include training about student information and privacy in all new employee orientations.
The proposed rules also cover prior notification of customers before disclosure of information to a third party. In this case, FERPA protections seem to be more stringent. Usually, we do not disclose information from a student's educational record unless the student has signed a written release of information - there are limited exceptions to this, e.g., student information can be released to state and federal agencies that enforce or administer financial aid. In general, the college is heavily regulated in terms of privacy issues - not only through FERPA, but also through Title IV regulations, state requirements and our own board policies.
If the rules are implemented so as to include colleges and universities, it may also prove an additional burden to the college depending on what is deemed to be sufficient notice to prospective and current consumers in terms of privacy rights and policies. If our present practice of publication in the catalogue etc. is not considered an adequate notice, then there could be a college impact in terms of needing to include information about privacy policies in all ads, publications, mailings etc. This would increase our operating costs and would translate into either increased cost to our students and taxpayers or reduced services and educational opportunities. This seems unnecessary given the strict regulation of information and student privacy we already adhere to.
If you have any questions, please give us a call. Our telephone number is 541-747-4501. Our individual telephone extension follow our names below.
Thank you for your consideration of our comments and interest in keeping educational opportunities affordable and accessible to more people.