Student Data Privacy and Security: A Call for Transparent Practices

Student Data Privacy and Security: A Call for Transparent Practices


During the spring of 2022, EDUCAUSE conducted a national survey of 820 undergraduate students in the United States. (For more information, see the Methodology section.) In this increasingly hybrid world, data privacy and information security are becoming daily topics of conversation. However, specific privacy and security policies and practices at higher education institutions can be confusing and challenging to navigate, even for instructors and staff. These challenges are amplified for students, leading to a lack of trust and confidence in their institutions.

In this report, we describe the findings of the survey that are related to:

Quantitative descriptions of the survey results are supported by qualitative data—students’ descriptions of their experiences in their own voices. Higher education technology leaders will find concrete recommendations for translating this research into action by creating transparency in their data privacy and information security practices. To read about the rest of the findings from these survey data, see 2022 Students and Technology Report: Rebalancing the Student Experience.

Key Findings

  • Institutions have a responsibility to inform students about what data are being collected, how those data are being stored and protected, and how they are being used. Respondents expressed less familiarity with their institutions' data policies than with principles of data privacy and information security.
  • Without an understanding of relevant data policies, students simply can't trust their institutions. For example, fewer than half of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they trust their institution to use their data ethically and responsibly.
  • In increasingly hybrid learning environments, vetting third-party tools and services is becoming an even more essential responsibility for institutions. But are our vetting processes adequate, and are we informing students of these processes? Over a third of respondents said they are very or extremely concerned about educational software companies' using student data purely for profit.
  • Data privacy and information security are equity issues. For example, only 16% of respondents who identified as having at least one disability agreed or strongly agreed that they benefit from their institution's privacy and information security policies, as compared to 38% of respondents who did not report having a disability.

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© 2022 EDUCAUSE. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License.

Citation for this work
Jenay Robert. Student Data Privacy and Security: A Call for Transparent Practices. Research report. Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE, October 2022.