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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: Your privacy is worth 47 cents to the College Board

Editor's note: Spokesperson Jaslee Carayol requested that the Editorial Board clarify that the College Board doesn't sell students' information, they ~license~ it. 

Carayol also clarified that "students must affirmatively opt-in" and "can opt-out of Search at any time." 

A good college was important to many of our 18-year-old selves. A reputable one, a beautiful one, a diverse one, an institution that valued us as contributing member to its campus life and academics — we all had different criteria based on how society instructed us to pursue our futures.

We sent countless applications to different universities. We busted our asses to achieve a decent score on SAT, ACT and AP exams. We pushed to attain awards and honors, and even took on extracurricular activities. We strained ourselves to receive academic and even professional recognition in the hopes that a college would take notice of us; would add us to their numbers. 

What we may not have realized was that no matter which college chose us, we would always be just a number in their eyes.

This careless attitude toward students, and hardworking ones at that, is most exemplified by a recent Wall Street Journal report on the College Board's sale of student profile data to colleges. The College Board is an institution that creates and administers standardized tests and curricula — including the SAT and AP exams — to high school students. In doing so, it holds the reins to one of the most crucial components of the college admissions process; students' data. Why does this matter?

In selling test-takers' names and personal information to universities, the College Board takes part in another, more sinister business — one in which schools inflate their applicant pools and rejection rates based on information that students have virtually no choice but to provide.

The data includes information about high school students' names, ethnic identities, parents' education and approximate PSAT and/or SAT scores. All of this is sold for just 47 cents per student.

The College Board is telling us that we're only worth 47 cents. They are reiterating the notion that we are just a number, just a name in the system that equates to dollar signs for our institutions.

That shouldn't feel good. Nothing should feel good about the knowledge that many, if not all, of the universities that we applied to buy our names just to broaden the scope of applications they receive. They then pump out rejection letters to deflate their acceptance rates and make them appear more competitive.

While the College Board has declined to give the exact number of names it sells, it is estimated that 1,900 schools and scholarship programs have bought bundles of names and personal information from a pool of 2 to 2.5 million students. It gets worse — schools can target students based on whether or not they meet necessary criteria regarding geography, socio-economic, racial and ethnic status and academic interests. 

If UNC was looking for lacrosse-playing Caucasian boys with wealthy parents interested in pursuing business degrees, the College Board would gladly sell them a list of names filtered by these details. What about the low-income student who worked a part-time job and attended a public school in a district with limited funding? Well, the College Board could cater a list with that criteria too, but where is the moral imperative? 

If the College Board remains unchecked and unregulated, there's no guarantee that this data will be used equitably — if that's even possible. It's more likely that without the means to support the expensive standardized-test preparatory classes, tutoring, books and even teachers, minority students will ultimately be excluded from the college admissions process, despite having contributed their application fees.

The potential for inequity is immeasurable, but at least we can remain assured that our names are equally worth a hefty 47 cents each.

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