SAT administrator College Board settles New York claims it sold student data

FILE PHOTO: New York Attorney General Letitia James
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By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The College Board agreed to pay $750,000 to settle claims by New York attorney general that it violated high school students' privacy by selling personal information it collected when they took the SAT and other exams, the state said on Tuesday.

Attorney General Letitia James said the nonprofit exam administrator, which has more than 6,000 members, made tens of millions of dollars between 2018 and 2022 by licensing students' information to more than 1,000 colleges and scholarship programs, which then used the data to solicit students.

The College Board allegedly used its Student Search Service to sell students' names, contact information, ethnicities, grade point averages and test scores, despite a 2014 state education law barring the commercialization of such data.

James said that in 2019 alone, the College Board licensed data of more than 237,000 New York students who took its exams, which also include the PSAT and advanced placement exams.

The nonprofit was also accused of improperly sending marketing materials to students that were unrelated to its exams.

"Students have more than enough to be stressed about when they take college entrance exams, and shouldn't have to worry about their personal information being bought and sold," James said in a statement.

Tuesday's settlement includes civil penalties, disgorgement and other costs. It also bars the College Board from monetizing data it collects through contracts with New York City and other school districts to administer exams during the school day.

The College Board did not admit or deny wrongdoing, and ended some of the challenged practices in 2022.

In a statement, the College Board said it was pleased to settle despite disagreeing with James' view of the law, and said there was no finding that student data was misused.

It also said its 52-year-old search service has had a "proven, positive effect on college-going," with students who use it getting 29% more admission offers and minority students getting 65% more offers.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)