Texas loan contractor loses 1.3M student records

By Tessa Moll (Daily Texan, U. Texas)

AUSTIN, Texas-Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corp., which administers an estimated 90 percent of federal loans for Texas college students, announced Tuesday that a third-party contractor lost equipment containing the names and Social Security numbers of approximately 1.3 million borrowers.

The contractor, Hummingbird Ltd., which was preparing a system to store Texas Guaranteed data, does not believe the equipment was stolen for access to the private information, according to a company press release.

“This was inadvertent and not malicious,” said Chuck Bradford, a Texas Guaranteed spokesman.

Texas Guaranteed is a non-profit corporation created by the Texas Legislature in 1979 to administer the Federal Family Education Loan Program, which includes Stafford and PLUS loans, to Texas students. The University of Texas directs its students to the organization as a loan guarantor, and Don Davis, associate director of the University’s Office of Student Financial Services, estimates at least 90 percent of UT students seeking federal loans use the company.

“Given the number of borrowers [UT has], I wouldn’t be surprised,” Davis said, of the possibility that University students’ information may have been among the lost data.

Texas Guaranteed has nearly 25,000 contracts with current UT students. Since the lost data only contained names and Social Security numbers, and not information such as universities or addresses, there is no way to ascertain the number of UT students whose information was compromised, said Bradford.

The lost information, which encompasses about 10 percent of Texas Guaranteed borrowers, was part of a mass of data sent to Hummingbird in January 2006 via a secure file transfer protocol.

According to a Texas Guaranteed press release, the files were encrypted and password protected. However, upon reaching Hummingbird, an employee downloaded and decrypted the information before storing it on the lost piece of equipment. The equipment is password protected, and “not easily accessed and used,” said Sue McMillin, Texas Guaranteed president and CEO, in a statement.

Bradford said Texas Guaranteed will “consider” its future relationship with Hummingbird after the approximately 1.3 million borrowers have been contacted by mail. Hummingbird provides software to manage information and works with about 90 percent of Fortune 100 companies, according to the company’s Web site.

The guarantor company has also set up a call center to field questions from those who may have had their information lost. As of 2 p.m. Thursday, the center had fielded about 900 calls.