A study from Noel-Levitz reveals parent and student attitudes and concerns toward privacy. While both parents and students have their college-related privacy concerns, parents are quite concerned about student privacy security.

Some of the privacy issues surround the vast amount of data collected by universities. Much of that data collection might be seen as necessary–either due to federal government rules or in order to facilitate easier registration and other student use. However, while students and parents may understand the reasons behind the collection of data, many of them remain concerned or very concerned.

“The table below shows the percent who said they were concerned or extremely concerned about the following privacy issues.”

Privacy Chart for College Parents copy 

One interesting fact about these results is that the method of providing personal information greatly influences parent and student comfort with their privacy. In particular, contact information provided online to a school is viewed as insecure.

It’s certainly nice that so many identify privacy as a potential problem. After all, there have been some significant data breaches at universities this year (among them: Indiana UniversityButler University in June, University of Maryland in February, University of Delaware in July). These are real issues: “Since the beginning of 2013, 47 data breaches have occurred in the education sector, including K-12 and higher ed, according to a database maintained by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in California. Since 2005, 718 such breaches have been recorded.

However, just because students are concerned about privacy doesn’t mean they take the necessary precautions. It is perhaps this point that should worry parents most. Going back to the 2010 Uni-Ball survey on student privacy security, one can see that concern doesn’t translate into practice:

  • Old School: Three out of four parents (74 percent) indicated they believe students are at moderate‐to‐high risk for identity theft. Fewer students ‐‐ 21 percent ‐‐ said they were concerned about having their identities stolen,and only 13 percent said check fraud was a key concern. However, with identity theft costing victims $5 billion annually, students ignore this at their own risk.
  • Lock Up:  59 percent of students said they feel safe on campus “most of the time,” yet only 60 percent admit to locking their doors, and one in 10 has allowed people into their apartment/house whom they do not know. However, it only takes a minute for someone to grab a piece of junk mail off a student’s desk and use it later to open a credit line.
  • Falling on Deaf Ears: Although 89 percent of parents said they had discussed safety measures with their students before they left for school, students are not heeding the warnings. In fact, 40 percent of students said they provide their social security numbers online, 9 percent share online passwords, and 7 percent say they take no safety precautions at all.
  • Safety Snub: Identity theft is not alone on the list of student‐snubbed security issues. According to the survey, only 44 percent of students are concerned with having their personal belongings stolen (laptop, mp3 player, purse, etc.), 40 percent regularly leave their apartment or dorm doors unlocked, and only 34 percent are afraid of walking home from campus at night.

Parents should emphasize their concerns with privacy with their student and discuss how to, and the urgent need to, put those concerns into practice.