Title: University’s Interpretation of FERPA
Effective date: 1974
Responsible Official: Office of the Provost
Responsible University Office: Office of the University Registrar
Related legislation: Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA)
Review Period: 5 Years
Date of Last Review: May 1, 2021
Relates to: Faculty, Staff, Students
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) contains several provisions that are important to students. First, the university may not release personally identifiable student records to a third party, with certain specific exceptions, unless the third party has requested the information in writing and the student has consented, again in writing, to its release. The university may release directory information about a student, however, unless the student submits a written request that any or all such information not be released. Second, a student may request, in writing, an opportunity to inspect and review the student’s official files and records maintained by the university and may, if appropriate, challenge the accuracy of those records. The university is permitted a reasonable time, not to exceed 45 days, to respond to such a request. Third, a student may file with the Family Policy Compliance Office of the U.S. Department of Education a complaint concerning what he or she believes to be the university’s failure to comply with FERPA. Finally, a student may obtain from the Registrar a copy of this policy, which the university has adopted to meet the requirements of FERPA. The information below is presented in compliance with the provisions of FERPA, which require the university to notify students annually of their rights and the university’s policies and procedures. Specific procedures may vary slightly among the schools and colleges of the university, and each student is encouraged to inquire at his or her own dean’s office if any question arises.
Educational records - Education Records are those records, files, documents, and other materials which (i) contain information directly related to a student; and (ii) are maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a person acting for such agency or institution.
Access to Files
A student may request, in writing, an opportunity to review the contents of the student’s educational file. Certain materials are excluded from review as specified in FERPA. Among these are:
- Records kept in the sole possession of faculty, staff, and other personnel, used only as a personal memory aid, and not accessible to any other person except a temporary substitute for the maker of the record.
- Records created and maintained by law enforcement units solely for law enforcement purposes that are not maintained by persons other than law enforcement officials.
- Records created and maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other professional or paraprofessional acting in that capacity in connection with the provision of treatment to a student. Such records can, of course, be reviewed by a physician or other appropriate professional of the student’s choice.
- Employment records of a student made and maintained in the normal course of business. Such employment records may be obtained in the Student Employment Office or Human Resources under the policies applicable to those offices.
- Financial records of a student’s parents, or any information contained therein.
- Confidential letters and statements of recommendation placed in the file before January 1, 1975.
- Records for which the student previously waived his or her right of access.
- Records that contain only information about a person after that person is no longer a student, such as alumni records.
Procedures for Inspection and Review
The office to which the request is made will arrange an appointment within a reasonable period of time (not to exceed 45 days) for the student to review the file in the presence of a member of the office staff.
FERPA affords students certain rights with respect to their educational records. Students may ask the university to amend a record that the student believes is inaccurate or misleading. The student should write to the university official responsible for the record, clearly identifying the part of the record the student wants changed, and specify why it is inaccurate or misleading. If the university decides not to amend the record as requested by the student, the university will notify the student of the decision and advise the student of his or her right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment. Additional information regarding the hearing procedures will be provided to the student when notified of the right to a hearing.
The student may request copies of those records to which he or she has access under the terms of FERPA. The student will be charged a nominal fee per page for these copies.
Release of Personally Identifiable Records
FERPA affords the student the right to consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information contained in the student’s educational records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent. One exception, which permits disclosure without consent, is disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests. A school official is defined as a person employed by the university in an administrative, supervisory, academic, or support staff position (including law enforcement unit and health staff); a person or company with whom the university has contracted (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent); a person serving on the Board of Trustees; or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks. A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility.
Upon request, the university may disclose education records without consent to officials of another school in which a student seeks or intends to enroll. The university may also disclose education records to organizations conducting studies for educational agencies or institutions under certain circumstances.
For the convenience of faculty and fellow students, FERPA provides for a category known as directory information which may be released without requesting the eligible student’s specific prior consent. Rather, the act requires that students be notified annually of the types of information included in this category and be given an appropriate period in which to express, in writing, any preference that such information about themselves not be released. For this purpose, directory information is defined to include:
- Name (including both maiden name and married name, where applicable)
- Address, telephone listing, and electronic mail address
- Date and place of birth
- Major field of study
- Anticipated graduation date
- Enrollment Status (undergraduate or graduate, full-time or part-time)
- Dates of attendance
- Degrees and awards received
- Participation in officially recognized sports and activities
- Weight and height (members of athletic team)
Any student who would prefer that the university not release such information about himself or herself can update their FERPA Restriction by going to the Student Information System (SIS). For more information on how to update a FERPA Restriction, please visit the Office of the University Registrar's SIS Resources webpage - FERPA/Directory Restrictions.