Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

What is FERPA?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, also known as the Buckley Amendment, protects the privacy of student records. The Act provides for the right to inspect and review education records, the right to seek to amend those records, and to limit disclosure of information from the records. The Act applies to all institutions that are the recipients of federal funding.

Who is Protected Under FERPA?

Students who are currently enrolled in higher education institutions or formerly enrolled, regardless of their age, or status in regard to parental dependency. Students who have applied but have not attended an institution do not have rights under FERPA.

What are Education Records?

With certain exceptions, a student has rights of access to those records which are directly related to him/her and which are maintained by an educational institution or party authorized to keep records for the institution. “Education Records” generally include any records in the possession of the institution that contains information directly related to a student, with the exception of those addressed below. FERPA does not mandate what records are to be maintained. This is a matter of institutional policy and/or state regulation. The records may be handwritten, electronic, or in some other format. FERPA coverage includes records, files, documents, and data directly related to students. This would include transcripts or other records obtained from a school in which a student was previously enrolled

What is not Included in an Education Record?

  • Sole-possession records or private notes held by educational personnel which are not accessible or released to other personnel
  • Law enforcement or campus security records which are solely for law enforcement purposes
  • Records relating to an individual’s employment by the institution (unless employment is contingent on student status)
  • Records relating to treatment provided by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist or other recognized professional or paraprofessional and disclosed only to individuals providing treatment
  • Records of an institution which contain only information about an individual obtained after that person is no longer a student at that institution (i.e., alumni records)

Amendment of Records

If a student believes that any of the education records relating to her or him contain information that is inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of her or his rights of privacy, she or he may ask the College to correct or delete such information. The student may also ask that additional explanatory material be inserted in the record. Requests for amendment of a record or the addition of explanatory material should be submitted at the conclusion of the record review. The reasons for the request should be clearly identified as part of the record that the student wants changed. It must specify why the record is inaccurate or misleading. There is no obligation on the part of the College to grant such a request. If the College declines to amend the records as requested by the student, it will so inform the student, and the student may request a hearing. The right to challenge the contents of an educational record may not be used to question substantive educational judgments that have been correctly recorded. For example, a hearing may not be requested to contest the assignment of a grade. Grades given in the course of study include written evaluations that reflect institutional judgment of the quality of a student’s academic performance.

What Documents can be Removed from an Education Record before the Student Views the Record?

  • Any information that pertains to another student
  • Financial records of the student’s parents
  • Some confidential letters and statements of recommendation under conditions described in FERPA section 99.12

What is Directory Information?

Institutions may disclose information on a student without violating FERPA through what is known as “directory information”. This generally includes a Student Name, Hometown, Year of Birth, Full or part-time Status, Classification, Dates of attendance, Major field of study, Awards received, Photograph, Degree/Certificate Granted and date granted, Sports weight/height of athletic team members, and/or participation in officially recognized activities/sports. Each institution is required to annually notify students in attendance of what constitutes directory information. This notice must also provide procedures for students to restrict the institution from releasing his/her directory information.

When Do You Need Consent to Disclose Personally Identifiable Information from an Education Record?

With specific exceptions, (listed below), a signed and dated consent by the student must be provided by the student before any disclosure is made.

The written consent must:

  • Specify the records that may be disclosed
  • State the purpose of disclosure
  • Identify the party or class of parties to whom the disclosure may be made

What is “Personally Identifiable Information”?

  • The student’s name
  • Name of the student’s parent or other family members
  • Address of the student or student’s family
  • A personal identifier, such as a social security number or student number
  • A list of personal characteristics that would make the student’s identity easily traceable

When is the Student’s Consent Not Required to Disclose Information?

The exceptions are:

  • To College faculty, staff, and administrators with a legitimate educational interest (defined in the College’s annual notification)
  • To parents of a “dependent student” as documented on a recent tax return
  • To Federal, State and local education authorities involving an audit or evaluation of compliance with education programs
  • In connection with processing Financial Aid
  • To accrediting organizations
  • To comply with judicial order or subpoena
  • Health or safety emergency
  • Directory information
  • To the student
  • Results of disciplinary hearing to an alleged victim of a crime of violence

Requests to disclose should always be handled with caution and approached on a case-by-case basis.

Please note that, in compliance with a 1997 federal statute designed to advance military recruiting, we may release dates of birth to the military unless the student notifies us that he or she wishes that the information be withheld.

How Does Increasing Technology Impact FERPA on Our Campuses?

The use of computerized record-keeping systems is increasing at a tremendous rate. Electronic data will eventually replace most paper documents. We try to ensure that appropriate policies are established to protect the confidentiality of those records, educate faculty, administrators, staff, and students, about the policies, and make sure the policies are enforced. The same principles of confidentiality must be applied to electronic data as apply to paper documents.

These general guidelines are not intended to be legal advice. This document provides only a summary of FERPA. For further information regarding FERPA or clarification regarding FERPA, refer to the act and regulations.