Utah college and university student-body presidents brought student privacy and security concerns to Gov. Mike Leavitt Wednesday.
Leavitt says he will bring up the issue of using Social Security numbers as student identification numbers with the Utah Board of Regents."That's a very legitimate issue," Leavitt said after the meeting. "A student's information should not be available universally."
Such concerns came to a head earlier this year after a computer hacker accessed more than 20,000 Social Security numbers of University of Utah students and faculty.
Two U. faculty members also accessed a student's grades after the student criticized a recreation major in his student newspaper column. The faculty members included their deeds in a letter to the editor published in the Daily Utah Chronicle .
Other college student body presidents said students working in university offices have accessed their student records and bantered about grades. Other violations of security are more egregious. Brian Brown, student body president at Weber State University, says his Social Security number was lifted and $300 charged to his credit card.
"There's no need to use our Social Security numbers," Brown said.
Some institutions are promoting change in using Social Security numbers.
The U. is distributing new ID numbers to new students and gradually replacing the old system, student body president Doug Dubitsky said.
A U. Ad Hoc Committee on Student Record Privacy recommends limiting access to student records to advising or essential administrative needs and incorporating a software feature restricting access, among others recommendations.
At Southern Utah University, some students are trying out new student cards for transactions, said student president Treion Muller.
- In other news, Leavitt, co-founder of the Western Governors University, suggests colleges might provide students with laptop computers. Only about one-fourth of Utah college students have Internet access from home.
"If the student is willing to take one or two courses (by computer) per (term) and not take up the (classroom) space, maybe the university would be willing to partner with them," Leavitt told student leaders.
While he does not intend to request state funding for the plan this year, he said it could occur within a few years, The Associated Press reported.
Computers could be a cheaper alternative to the new classrooms to handle Utah's expected boom in college students. The state has about 120,000 students enrolled at its nine public colleges and universities. By 2015, that number is expected to double, and it could cost $3 billion to handle the student swell.
"It's coming," Leavitt said, referring to the day when public colleges will provide students with computers to use. "At some point, it will become economically viable."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.