ID numbers change in Feb

By Drew Bonifant

Students’ majors change all the time; their courses, meal plans and activities are the same way.

And, in less than a month, their identifications will too.

Social Security Numbers (SSN) will no longer serve as student ID numbers. They will be replaced by a nine-digit figure beginning with “00” starting Feb. 20, according to an advertisement submitted by the university and published in the previous edition of The News.

The new ID number will replace the SSN on “most Northeastern University records.” Students will need the ID number to access those records online or in person, according to the advertisement.

This shift could be a major transition, considering the role the SSN plays in forms and registration at Northeastern. An SSN is required to register for student employment, meal plans, intramural sports, financial aid and electronic access through the Sponsored Account Process.

The SSN also factors into student’s scheduling because the last two digits of the number currently determine a student’s position in signing up and registering for classes, meaning the number can be the difference between securing a spot in a competitive course and being forced to settle for another option.

However, the SSN won’t vanish from the scene completely. According to the advertisement, the SSN will still need to be provided for federal reporting and financial aid forms, and the last four digits of the SSN will be required for entrance to electronic systems.

James Janocha, a sophomore music industry major, said there are specific problems with using an SSN as a personal identification, both in general and at Northeastern.

“I think one of the biggest problems would be that, especially on a campus in a big city like Boston and you’re using wireless internet throughout the campus, anybody can [find the number] if you’re putting your social security number for everything you have to fill out for the school,” he said. “It’d be very easy if someone wanted to get access to that, and hence, steal your identity.”

Other schools nationwide have dealt with the social security and identity theft. According to a January 2005 article in the Washington Post, George Mason University in Virginia reported the loss of personal information for more than 30,000 students, faculty and staff . A June 2004 laptop theft at the University of California – Los Angeles put 145,000 blood donors at risk of having their information stolen. A year earlier, 55,000 student records and SSN were stolen at the University of Texas in March 2003.

The new Northeastern ID number could help the school avoid such a fate, though the transition won’t be simple. In addition to the university having to go through files and records that currently contain SSN, it may take the student body time to warm up to the new number.

“There probably will be [an issue with the new ID], because everybody knows their social security number off the top of their head,” Janocha said. “As long as it’s nothing too complicated to know, they should be able to work around it. It shouldn’t be anything too bad.”

University officials are meeting with members of the Student Government Association later this week to discuss the issues involved in changing ID numbers. They declined comment until after that meeting.

Leave a Reply