Student Rights Under FERPA for Postsecondary Institutions
FERPA at a Glance:The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
What is FERPA?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended, sets forth requirements regarding the privacy of student records. FERPA governs:
- release of these records (known as education records) maintained by an educational institution and
- access to these records.
This law applies to K–12 as well as postsecondary education.
Who must comply with FERPA?
Any educational institution (school or other entity that provides educational services and is attended by students) and educational agency (entity that administers schools directly linked to it) that receives funds under any program administered by the U.S. Secretary of Education.
What does FERPA require for educational institutions to be in compliance?
- Notify students annually. Schools must notify students of their rights on an annual basis. There is no specific method that schools must use to notify students; it is up to the institution. Notice must take a form that is “reasonably likely” to notify students. Recommended and most frequently used ways include:
- Student bulletin, handbook, or catalog
- School or local newspaper
- Student registration packet
- Protect students’ rights to inspect and review their education records.
- Protect students’ rights to request to amend their education records.
- Protect students’ rights to limit disclosure of personally identifiable information contained in education records.
- Ensure that third parties do not redisclose personally identifiable information (except under a few circumstances).
- Keep records of requests for and disclosures of student education records in limited situations.
Who has FERPA rights at the postsecondary level?
A student “in attendance” (regardless of age) and former students.
- Student applies to all students attending — including continuing education students, students auditing a class, distance education students, and high school students enrolled in college.
- In attendance applies to and is determined by the institution. If the institution has not defined when a student is “in attendance” that date becomes the day the student first attends a class at the institution.
What rights does FERPA provide for students?
- Right to inspect and review their education records.
- Right to request to amend their education records.
- Right to limit disclosure of some “personally identifiable information” (information that would directly identify the student or make the student’s identity easily traceable) known as directory information.
What is considered Directory Information?
- Student’s name
- Major field of study
- Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
- Weight and height of members of athletic teams
- Dates of attendance
- Degrees and awards received
- The most recent previous public or private school attended by the student
- Any other information authorized in writing by the student.
(NOCCCD BP 5040 effective April 2009).
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) affords students certain rights with respect to their education records. These rights include:
- The right to inspect and review the student’s education records within 45 days of the day the College receives a request for access.
Students should submit to the registrar, dean, head of the academic department, or other appropriate official, written requests that identify the record(s) they wish to inspect. The College official will make arrangements for access and notify the student of the time and place where the records may be inspected. If the records are not maintained by the College official to whom the request was submitted, that official shall advise the student of the correct official to whom the request should be addressed.
- The right to request the amendment of the student’s education record that the student believes is inaccurate. Students may ask the College to amend a record that they believe is inaccurate. They should write the College official responsible for the record, clearly identify the part of the record they want changed, and specify why it is inaccurate. If the College decides not to amend the record as requested by the student, the College 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 right to consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information contained in the student’s education 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 a person employed by the College in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support staff position (including law enforcement unit personnel and health staff); a person or company with whom the College has contracted (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent); a person serving on the Board of Trustees; or a student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee, 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 College discloses education records without consent to officials of another school in which a student seeks or intends to enroll or is already enrolled so long as the disclosure is for the purposes related to the student’s enrollment.
- The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the College to comply with the requirements of FERPA. The name and address of the Office that administers FERPA is:
Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-4605