SheerID CEO Jake Weatherly Discusses How Partnering with the Clearinghouse Benefits Institutions and Students Nationwide
As part of our Voice of the Customer series for Clearinghouse staff, the Clearinghouse’s Vice President Larry Hatch recently discussed how Jake Weatherly, CEO of SheerID, Inc., partnered with the Clearinghouse to help students nationwide obtain discounts and other benefits – without using privacy-sensitive information.
Because of the Clearinghouse’s FERPA-compliant Verification Services and the fees collected from third-parties, like SheerID, the Clearinghouse is able to provide free or low-cost services to colleges and universities nationwide. This is one of the Clearinghouse’s resources to help finance our mission to serve the education and workforce communities and all learners with access to trusted data, related services, and insights.
Thousands of postsecondary institutions participate in EnrollmentVerify℠ making the Clearinghouse the trusted private source for U.S. college enrollment data. EnrollmentVerify is designed with a student-consent approach to fulfill the verification requirements of companies that offer products or services requiring proof of a student’s enrollment status. Our service eliminates the costs and delays caused by contacting multiple schools directly.
Hatch: How did SheerID get started?
Weatherly: We started SheerID, because we saw this area that really just had not been addressed well, or in some cases at all, with a technology solution.
This area really boils down to the creation of digital trust. Can you trust that the person on the other end of the device or standing at the cash register is really eligible for your special program?
It’s really easy to abuse discount programs, and it feels to most people like a little white lie. It doesn’t really feel like fraud. But if you take millions of transactions and you apply a 10 to 30 percent discount, you’re talking about billions of dollars lost annually to fraud and abuse. Our founding team at SheerID uncovered that people were either being trusted by brands to self-attest information to receive a special reward for a very specific audience, or they were put through a really cumbersome and slow process that meant sharing super-sensitive personal information.
So, we wanted to change that world. We were working on figuring out how students can prove that they’re students; military service members can prove that they are serving or have served, teachers are really teachers, nonprofits are nonprofits, without using privacy-sensitive information like a Social Security number (SSN), a military identification number, or sending their class schedule into some call center somewhere. And so, we created the first digital verification software platform.
Hatch: How does SheerID College Student Verification work?
Weatherly: SheerID confirms that an individual has a desired characteristic or status such as being a member of the military, or an enrolled student. With SheerID College Student Verification, college students obtain discounts on subscriptions, clothes and more throughout their educational journey from acceptance through graduation, and all the parties involved are protected against fraud.
Hatch: How did SheerID learn about the National Student Clearinghouse?
Weatherly: One of our earliest partners was the National Student Clearinghouse. As we went from school to school and spoke with the registrars, they all said, “You need to go and talk to the National Student Clearinghouse.”
So, I took their advice. I reached out to the Clearinghouse team, and I explained, “You may be our key to digital student verification efforts, but we need to overcome a challenge. Everything you do requires a SSN, and students have shared with us that they don’t think they should be required to provide a SSN to get a product discount. Can we work together to confidently verify a student with data that’s specific but not a privacy risk?” And that led us to work together and develop a method to query authoritative data (provided by the Clearinghouse) at light-speed –without requiring an SSN.
Hatch: How are students using your service to obtain benefits?
Weatherly: While I don’t have the stats on the amount of money saved across the whole network, we do see a lot of repeat purchases. We help students obtain discounts for clothes, technology, subscriptions and more at great places like TOMS, J. Crew, Urban Outfitters, Tableau, Spotify, HBO, YouTube and the list goes on and on. As students transition to independent adults, they need to purchase everything from apparel to electronics to home décor. There are these really interesting buying events during life, and we are just so honored that we get to help facilitate the delivery of genuine value to so many people all over the world.
Hatch: What do you find uniquely valuable in working with the Clearinghouse?
Weatherly: The Clearinghouse’s brand equity and the authoritative nature of the data, provides our customers with confidence that the verification process is accurate and timely — two very important factors when verifying eligibility for a special offer.
The Clearinghouse is an absolute accelerator for us; a force multiplier. What it comes down to is the hard work that the Clearinghouse has done throughout its history. Every day, you do everything you can to honorably represent students in these institutions without compromising data privacy or integrity and with student permission.
Hatch: Where do you see the partnership between SheerID and the Clearinghouse going in the future?
Weatherly: We provide student verification for our customers now in 106 countries and growing. There are some countries that are difficult to even find a clear definition of “enrolled university student” that matches the rigor of the definition in the United States, never mind connecting to accurate data or any kind of aggregated data.
So I think the more that the Clearinghouse can help institutions globally, and contribute to some of these consortiums as they may form in other countries, the easier it will be to provide students all around the world access to promotions and opportunities that recognize their special student status. Then the more that the Clearinghouse keeps its services up and running and responds quickly and accurately to the requests that we send through, the bigger and better we will grow together.
“One of our earliest partners was the National Student Clearinghouse. As we went from school to school and spoke with the registrars, they all said, ‘You need to go and talk to the National Student Clearinghouse.’ ”
CEO, SheerID, Inc.