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       Learn About FERPA - Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act

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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 which contain  information directly related to a student, with the exception of those addressed below. FERPA contains no  requirement that certain records be kept at all. This is a matter of institutional policy and/or state regulation. The records may be handwritten or in the form of print, computer, magnetic tape, e-mail, film or some other  medium. 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)

What Documents Can Be Removed From An Education Record Before The Student Views The Record?

  • any information that pertains to another student or the financial records of the student's parents
  • some confidential letters and statements of recommendation

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's name, address, telephone number, email, date and place of birth, major field of study, participation in officially recognized sports and activities, weight and height of athletes, dates of attendance, degrees and awards received and other similar information. 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.

Who Would Generally Be Permitted Access Without The Student's Written Consent?

  • school officials who have "legitimate educational interests" as defined in the College's annual FERPA notification parents of a "dependent student" as defined by the Internal Revenue Code

  • the issuer of a judicial order or subpoena which allows the institution to release records without the student's consent, however, a "reasonable effort" must generally be made to notify the student before complying with the order

  • parents of financially dependent children

Parents of dependent students who request access to the records of their student dependent age 18 or older, without the studentís consent, must substantiate the dependent status of the student as defined in Section 152 of the Internal Revenue Code.

The College may disclose information to either parent, regardless of which one claims the student as a dependent.

Parentsí access to student records under this exception will be recorded in the record of disclosures.


When Do You Need Consent To Disclose Personally Identifiable Information From An Education Record (Including Transcripts)?

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, or a personal identifier, such as a social security number or student ID 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" to Federal, State and local education authorities involving an audit or evaluation of compliance with education programs in connection with processing Financial Aid to organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, educational institutions 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.

How Does Increasing Technology Impact FERPA On Our Campuses?

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 or contact the FERPA representative for your campus.

Adapted from the College of Pittsburgh

















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   Content Manager: Christy.Partlow@montgomerycollege.edu
Last Updated: March 16, 2009