Oversight leaves student information vulnerable

By: Jonathan Gamboa, Layout Designer

The current employee email system allows all employees, including work-study students, to access emails contain­ing personal student information such as student I.D. numbers, W-2 records, tax return transcripts, social secu­rity numbers and other information pertaining to a student’s educa­tional records.

The CNM chronicle has discovered that thou­sands of emails sent to many offices across campus, including Financial Aid, Cashiers and Enrollment Services dating back to 2003 are available through the Outlook email system, which is a violation of the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

FERPA is a federal law that protects the pri­vacy of student education records in all schools receiving federal fund­ing, such as CNM, from the U.S. Department of Education, which is stated on ed.gov.

“We take student information very seri­ously. We know that the Financial Aid office deals with sensitive doc­uments and if sent over email, there are only a small number of offi­cials who do have access to them,” said Assistant Director of Financial Aid Sarah Elliot.

Protecting student information is the law and the number-one priority of the Financial Aid office, said Elliott. Student employees do have access to sensitive student information, which is why all students must enroll in a manda­tory training on FERPA. It is unclear, though, have access to information in departments for which they do not work, said Elliott. why work-study employees

“I was never aware of this public access to per­sonal information nor was our office. We will make sure we get it corrected as soon as possible,” said Elliot.

Elliott said that she contacted the office of Information Technology Services, which will be investigating the permis­sions on the email network.

“Permissions to depart­ment subfolders in the sys­temwide Outlook email will be analyzed and cor­rected,” she said.

Michael Schalip, direc­tor of customer support services at ITS, was not available for comment.

The Cashiers office handles student’s personal and financial informa­tion with utmost care, said Christine Duncan, business office bursar.

Student financial infor­mation is never left with cashiers, and only four people in the department have access to the emails sent to the office, she said.

“We go through a lot to make sure that our systems are compliant with Visa and Mastercard regulations, which the ITS department helps in maintaining com­pliancy with these regula­tions,” said Duncan.

“This is not just a CNM policy, but a federal law,” she said.

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