What is FERPA?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 is a federal law which provides that colleges and Universities will maintain the confidentiality of the student educational records. The law basically says that no one outside the University shall have access to the student's records nor will the University disclose any information from those records without the written consent of the student.

Who does FERPA apply to?

FERPA deals specifically with the educational records of students, affording them certain rights with respect to those records. Educational records are records which are directly related to a student and maintained by an institution or a party acting for the institution. These rights extend to any student who reaches the age of 18 or who attend a postsecondary institution.

The University Policy on Family Educational Rights and Privacy can be viewed here. EP maintains a more stringent policy in that no personal student directory information is released.

FERPA rights

The primary rights afforded are:
  1. The right to inspect and review the educational records
  2. The right to seek to have the records amended
  3. The right to have control over the disclosure of information from the records

What information is in an educational record?

  • Name of Student
  • Address, phone number, e-mail
  • Personal Identifiers—such as Social Security Number, Student ID number
  • Date of Birth
  • Lists of personal characteristics or any other information that would make the identity easily traceable
  • Grades
  • GPA

Who can you provide FERPA information to?

  • You may provide FERPA protected information to other University Officials only for legitimate educational purposes
  • Or you may provide FERPA information to anyone with the written consent of the student

FERPA Quiz

Question 1: Current and former students have the right to inspect their academic records kept on file in the Registrar's Office, College Office and/or academic department.
Answer: Yes. Students have the right to inspect the contents of their academic folders whether they are currently enrolled or not.

Question 2: FERPA rights of a student begin when the application for admission is received.
Answer: No. The FERPA rights of a student begin when the student, having registered and paid, attends his or her first class.

Question 3: The Program Chair asks for a list of names and addresses for students who are enrolled in a specific course in the department. The addresses will be used to mail a survey about the quality of the course. Results of the survey will be used to improve the course. Is this an appropriate use of student records?
Answer: Yes. It is permissible to give FERPA related information to another University Official as long as it is for educational use.

Question 4: A registered student asks a department for a list of student names and addresses in order to collaborate on a homework assignment. Should the department provide the information?
Answer: No. Do not give out the information. Although addresses are considered 'directory' information, do not provide such a list to anyone not using it for official university business.

Question 5: You are facing an emergency situation where you fear the health and safety of people is in jeopardy if you do not release certain protected information to a third party. Can you exercise judgment and release the information?
Answer: Yes. The health and safety of members of the EP community is paramount and FERPA is not intended to increase the risk of individuals' safety in an emergency situation. The health and safety provision in FERPA states that you may release information from an educational record to an appropriate person in connection with an emergency if knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals. In such situations, consultation with the EP program office or the Office of the Registrar is recommended.

Question 6: You get a frantic phone call from an individual who says that he is a student's father and must get in touch with her immediately because of a family emergency. Can you tell him when and where her next class is today?
Answer: No. For the safety of the student you cannot tell another person where a student is at any time. You may expedite getting a message to the student. You really have no way to verify that this person is her father.

Question 7: An advisor or faculty member does not have to allow a student to inspect and review her personal notes about the student that are held in a file in the desk of the advisor's office.
Answer: Yes. These notes are not accessible to any other person, they are considered personal property and not part of a student's educational record.

Question 8: A faculty member requests a copy of a student's record so that he may write a recommendation for the student. Can he access the student's record for this reason?
Answer: Yes. The faculty member is a school official as defined by the FERPA policy with a legitimate educational interest.

Question 9: An unauthorized person retrieves information from a computer screen that was left unattended. Under FERPA, is the institution responsible?
Answer: Yes. Information on a computer screen should be treated the same as printed reports. The medium in which the information is held is unimportant.

Question 10: A student has FERPA rights as long as they are 18 years of age or older.
Answer: Yes. Age is not a factor—any student in attendance at a post-secondary institution has FERPA rights.