"The laptop contained a data set from the 2005 applicant pool," Michael Kyle, vice president and dean of admissions, said. Information kept in the laptop was from all students who applied to St. Olaf for the 2005-06 school year, regardless of their acceptance or enrollment.
The information included possible majors, other colleges students applied to, birthdates and social security numbers.
The stolen laptop had several safety mechanisms in place that would deter the thief from finding and using the information.
"We are confident that it would be very challenging for anyone to get at the information in the laptop, given the authentication required to sign onto the laptop," Kyle said.
Dean of Students Greg Kneser said that the information stolen was only about applicants.
"It did not have any information regarding parents," he said.
Admissions staff learned about the theft Thursday morning, Sept. 8.
"We spent Thursday and Friday assessing potential impact on the students who were included in the database," Kyle said. "We made the decision to be forthright and complete."
By Monday morning Sept. 12, over 3,000 letters were prepared and either put into current first-year students' boxes or sent to those who had applied to St. Olaf.
The letter explained the situation to students and strongly suggested that they list a fraud alert on their social security number with a major credit agency.
As of Wednesday, Oct. 5, no fraud attempts have been reported to the college.
St. Paul police are confident that the laptop theft was random, as other items, including a digital camera and some CDs, were also stolen from the car.
After the letters were sent, Kneser and Kyle received over 130 calls from concerned parents and students.
"We talked to everyone with concerns, with questions, or who was just plain upset," Kyle said. He and Kneser have responded to each call personally.
"We regret deeply that this happened," Kyle said.