Keeping info personal

By Jeff Goluska

For NIU students wanting increased protection for their financial account information, there are options to restrict access – even from one’s parents.

The Bursar’s Office will release account information over the phone to the student or his or her financial supporter (such as a parent), provided the person has the student’s Social Security number.

Students concerned about who has their Social Security number have options, but need not worry, said Kathe Shinham, associate vice president of Finance and Facilities.

“What information would they get?” she said. “About all they can do is pay your bill.”

Someone with access to a student’s bursar’s account could view items such as account balance, date of last payment, semester fees and encumbrances. The person also could pay a student’s bill via credit card (only available online), which is legally considered a gift if the student is 18 or older, said NIU Bursar Kinga Mauger.

If a student wants to severely restrict access to that data, he or she could sign a “Request to Prevent Disclosure of Directory Information” agreement.

The agreement forms a widespread restriction of information. If signed, the only people besides the student who can access data would be the student’s parents, and that’s only “if they provide evidence that the student is their dependent,” according to the agreement.

“Unless you come in and present identification in person, I cannot give you information,” said Mauger, about the situation created by signing the agreement. “If I so much as write down someone’s Social Security number, I can’t just throw it in the wastebasket; we shred everything.”

The request also eliminates telephone access to data, even by the student, but does not impede the access students are provided via WebConnect at

Another important aspect of the agreement is the scope of its restrictions.

That’s why Sheri Kallembach, associate director of Registration and Records, urges students considering the agreement to meet with the public contact staff at Williston Hall, Room 220.

“Sometimes there are some misunderstandings,” she said. “The public contact staff will discuss the implications of filling this form out with the student.”

Kallembach said the agreement will prevent potential employers and insurance companies, for example, from gaining access to any information about a student.

“Our response would be, ‘We have no information on that person,’” she said. “Even saying they’re a student is too much. We aren’t supposed to relay any type of information about the person [if they’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement].”

If a student graduates while the agreement is in effect, data will remain restricted even after the student leaves NIU, Kallembach said.

Another implication of the agreement is a student’s non-inclusion in the university’s annual phone book. If a student signs the agreement within 10 days after the beginning of the fall semester, his or her data will not be included in the book.

While a student can sign a non-disclosure agreement at any time while enrolled at NIU, he or she also may retract the agreement at any time.