South Carolina education regulators confirmed Monday that roughly 3,000 college scholarship recipients had their personal information exposed online for nearly a year.
The Commission on Higher Education said it sent out letters this weekend to affected students who won the Palmetto Fellows scholarship. In its letter, the commission said a database which was supposed to be only for credential college officials was mistakenly accessible to anyone on the web who knew its location. That database included students’ names, addresses and Social Security numbers (which colleges use as student identification numbers).
The letter said the commission is not aware of anyone misusing the information, which a forensic investigation found had been exposed since May 26. However, the agency admits it does not know who was able to access the database during the past nine months.
“On behalf of the S.C. Commission on Higher Education, we offer our sincerest apology that this unfortunate incident occurred,” the letter continued. “We assure you that protecting and safeguarding your information is one of our highest priorities and are continually reviewing and strengthening our policies, procedures, and practices to minimize the risk of any unauthorized data exposure.”
The letter does not say how the mistake was discovered. However, the Charleston Post & Courier reports a student found their personal information during a web search.
Palmetto Fellows are the highest level of merit-based lottery-funded scholarships in South Carolina. Eligible students can receive $6,700 in financial assistance their freshman year.