FERPA Fact Sheet

The Mystery of FERPA -- What it is not - What it is -- Why Must I Comply?

  • FERPA is not:
    • A disease that only the University Registrar workers get.
    • A law that only pertains to public institutions.
    • Only applicable to offices that handle grades.
    • A law that empowers parents to act on behalf of the student.
  • What is FERPA?
    • It stands for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974.
    • Also known as the Buckley Amendment.
    • FERPA is enforced by the Family Policy Compliance Office of the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Why Comply with FERPA?
    • It's the Law & University of Alabama policy.
    • Failure to comply could result in the withholding of Federal Funds including Student Financial Aid.
    • Lawsuits caused by violations cost time and $$$.
    • As an employee of the university you may be disciplined for intentional violations of the Policy on Confidentiality of Student Records.
  • Rights granted to Students by FERPA
    • The right to inspect and review their own education records.
    • The right to seek to have those records amended.
    • The right to have some control over the disclosure of information from their records.
  • Who is and is not covered under FERPA?
    • Students who are or have been in attendance at a postsecondary institution are covered under FERPA.
    • Applicants who are denied admission or who never attend are not covered under FERPA [Note: some information that applicants submit in an application (like test scores, grades, social security numbers, etc.) should remain protected from disclosure].
  • When do FERPA rights begin for a student?
    • When the student is "in attendance" as defined by the institution.
    • If the institution does not define "in attendance," the law stipulates FERPA rights begin the first day the student begins attending class.
  • What are Education Records?
    • All records that directly relate to a student and are maintained by an institution.
    • These records can be in any media form: handwritten, print, type, film, electronic, etc.
    • Conversations with the student and personal observations of student behavior are not "private."
  • What information might need to be handled in a secure way?
    • Registration forms
    • Grades & Transcripts
    • Student information displayed on your computer screen
    • Student schedules
    • Class assignments
    • Class Rosters
    • Any electronic or paper document with the student's ID or grade(s) on it.
  • What Education Records are not:
    • Personal Notes - kept by a faculty/staff member if kept in the sole possession of the one who made the record.
    • Department of Public Safety Records - maintained solely for law enforcement purposes & revealed only to law enforcement agencies.
    • Employment Records - of those whose employment is not contingent upon being a student.
    • Student Medical Records - created by a health care professional and disclosed only to other healthcare professional for the medical/health treatment of the student.
    • Alumni Records - containing information about a student no longer in attendance.
  • What information can be released?
    • Directory Information
    • Information that the student has given written consent to release.
    • Information needed by UA employees who have a legitimate educational interest.
    • Information needed by certain government agencies.
  • What is "directory information"?
    • It is information that can be released without the student's written consent, unless the student opts out of disclosure.
    • Each institution, to some extent, can determine what information is classified as directory information.

Asterisked items are printed in the University telephone directory unless a Request to Prevent Disclosure of Directory Information is filed within the first two weeks of Fall Semester.

  • Directory Information at UA includes:
    • Name*
    • Preferred Name
    • Local Address & Permanent Address
    • Local Phone Number & Permanent Phone Number
    • UA E-mail Address*
    • Full-/Part-time Enrollment Status
    • Class Level
    • UA School/College(s)
    • Major(s)/Degree Program(s)
    • Degree(s) Earned and Date(s)
    • Academic Awards and Honors
    • Prior Postsecondary Institution(s) Attended
    • Dates of Attendance
    • Participation or membership in officially recognized activities, social or greek organizations, and sports (or in intercollegiate athletic teams)
    • Weight and height of members of intercollegiate athletic teams
  • Student (and former student) Rights under FERPA
    • Students have a right to know where education records are kept.
    • Students have a right to inspect their education records.
    • Students have the right to seek to have records amended if necessary.
    • Students have the right to file a complaint with The U.S. Dept. of Education if they feel their rights are being violated.
    • Students have the right to expect that their education records are kept confidential except where special provisions are made.
    • Students have the right to suppress the disclosure of directory information to outside agencies and third parties.
  • Who can access Student Information?
    • UA Employees who have a legitimate educational interest.
    • Legitimate Education Interest: A school officials' need to review student education information to fulfill a responsibility as part of his or her job responsibilities.
    • Others who are performing a function on institutions behalf who have a legitimate educational interest.
  • Who can access Student Information?
    • Financial Aid Lenders.
    • Parties to a law suit when the UA has been issued a subpoena or court order.
    • Certain State & Federal Agencies.
    • Appropriate individuals in an emergency in order to protect the health & safety of the student or other persons.
    • Under the Solomon Amendment - military recruiters.
  • Parents' Ability to Access Student Information (not a "right")
    • Parents' Ability to Access Student Information (not a "right")
    • Parents may obtain directory information.
    • Parents may obtain non-directory information (grades, GPA, etc.) if the child is a legal dependent [must complete a legal declaration IAW with Internal Revenue Code] and the institution exercises its discretion to do so.
    • Parents may obtain non-directory information by obtaining a signed consent from their child.
    • Existence of a signed consent does not constitute a "power of attorney" empowering parents to act on behalf of the student.
  • EMPLOYEES TAKE NOTE:
    • Access to Student information via Banner or other computer software does not authorize unrestricted use of that information.
    • Curiosity is not a valid reason to view student information.
    • Parenthood is not a valid reason to view student information on one's son or daughter.
    • Records should only be used in the context of official business.
  • MORE IMPORTANT INFO:
    • When in doubt - don't give it out.
    • Requests for student academic information should be referred to the Office of the University Registrar.
    • Information about a student can be released with a signed consent from the student.
    • Information on a computer should be treated with the same confidentiality as a paper copy.
    • Do not leave confidential information displayed on an unattended computer.
    • Cover or put away papers that contain confidential information if you are going to step away from your desk.
    • Records containing SSNs/Student IDs/Names and/or grades should always be shredded, not just thrown in the garbage.
  • Special Hints for Faculty To Avoid FERPA Violations -They Should Not:
    • Use the SSN/Student ID/Student Names to post grades.
    • Leave graded tests [electronically or in print] for students to sort through.
    • Circulate electronically or in print, class list with the Student Name and SSN/Student ID.
    • Provide anyone with student schedules.
    • Provide anyone with lists of students enrolled in your classes.
    • Include confidential information (i.e., grades, #of credits) in a commendation letter without the written consent of the student [Note: If a student provides you a resume with the information, you may disclose whatever is in the resume.]

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