Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
What is FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act)?
What are education records?
Access to student education records
Student's right to inspect, review, and/or correct his/her records
Granting consent for third party access to student records (including parent/guardian access)
What is directory or public information?
Restricting release of directory information
Annual notification to students
Filing a complaint
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended (also sometimes referred to as the Buckley Amendment), is a federal law regarding the privacy of student records and the obligations of the institution, primarily in the areas of release of the records and the access provided to these records. Any educational institution that receives funds under any program administered by the U.S. Secretary of Education is bound by FERPA requirements. Institutions that fail to comply with FERPA may have funds administered by the Secretary of Education withheld.
Under FERPA, education records are defined as records that are directly related to a student and are maintained by an education agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution. Education records can exist in any medium, including: typed, computer generated, videotape, audiotape, film, microfilm, microfiche, and e-mail, among others.
Education records DO NOT INCLUDE such things as:
- sole-possession records, i.e., records/notes in sole possession of the maker, used only as a personal memory aid and not revealed or accessible to any other person except a temporary substitute for the maker of the record (this might include notes an instructor makes while providing career/professional guidance to a student);
- medical treatment records that include but are not limited to records maintained by physicians, psychiatrists, and psychologists;
- employment records when employment is not contingent on being a student, provided the record is used only in relation to the individual's employment;
- records created and maintained by a law enforcement unit used for only that purpose, are revealed only to law enforcement agencies of the same jurisdiction, and the enforcement unit does not have access to education records;
- post-attendance records, i.e., information about a person that was obtained when the person was no longer a student (alumni records) and does not relate to the person as a student.
According to FERPA, personally identifiable information in an education record may not be released without prior written consent from the student. Some examples of information that MAY NOT BE RELEASED without prior written consent of the student (consent form is located here) are:
- birth date
- religious affiliation
- disciplinary status
- grade point average (GPA)
- marital status
- SSN/student I.D.
- grades/exam scores
- test scores (e.g., SAT, GRE, etc.)
The College will not release personally identifiable information from a student's education record without the student's prior written consent. Even parents are not permitted access to their son or daughter's education records unless the student has provided written authorization permitting the parents' access. Exceptions include: access by "college officials" who the institution has determined to have a "legitimate educational interest;" access by school officials at other schools where the student seeks to enroll; access for the purpose of awarding financial aid and subpoenas.
At Hartwick these terms are defined below:
"College official" is any person employed by the College in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support staff position, a person elected to the Board of Trustees, a student serving on an official College committee, or a person employed by or under contract to the College to perform a specific task. A "College official" has a "legitimate educational interest" whenever he or she is performing a task that is specified in his or her position, description, or by a contract agreement, performing a task related to a student's education, performing a task related to the discipline of a student, providing a service or benefit relating to the student or student's family (such as healthcare, counseling, job placement, or financial aid) or disclosure of information in response to a judicial order or legally issued subpoena.
Students and former students have rights to inspect and review their education records within 45 days from making such a request. The right of inspection and review includes: the right to access, with an explanation and interpretation of the record; the right to a copy of the education record when failure to provide a copy of the record would effectively prevent the student from inspecting and reviewing the record. The institution may refuse to provide a copy of a student's education record provided such refusal does not limit access.
Limitations exist on students' rights to inspect and review their education records. For example, the institution is not required to permit students to inspect and review the following:
- financial information submitted by parents;
- education records containing information about more than one student (however, the institution must permit access to that part of the records which pertains only to the inquiring student);
- confidential letters and recommendations placed in the student's file before 01/01/75;
- confidential letters and statements of recommendation, placed in the records after 01/01/75, to which the student has waived his or her right to review and that are related to the student's admission, application for employment or job placement, or receipt of honors.
Students may ask the College to amend a record that they believe is inaccurate or misleading. 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 or misleading. 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/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.
A student may elect to release portions of his or her academic record to a third party (including his or her parents or guardians). This may be done by completing a consent form and filing it with the Office of the Registrar. This form allows a student to grant a third party access to personally identifiable information contained in his or her educational records (grades, GPA, etc.). This form is located online (click here) and in the Office of the Registrar.
FERPA has specifically identified certain information called directory information that may be disclosed without student consent.
Hartwick has designated the following information as directory information and will release this information, unless the student has submitted a request for non-disclosure:
- address (local and permanent)
- telephone number (local and permanent)
- College e-mail address
- Hartwick attendance dates
- Hartwick degrees earned (with dates)
- academic honors
- major, minor, and degree objective
- expected date of graduation
- previous schools attended
- enrollment status (class level)
- currently enrolled (Y/N)
- participation in officially recognized activities and sports
According to FERPA, a student can request that the institution not release any directory information about him/her. Institutions must comply with this request, once received, if the student is still enrolled.
At Hartwick, students who wish to restrict the release of directory information about themselves must complete a "Request to Prevent Disclosure of Directory Information" form, available in the Registrar's Office. The completed form must be submitted in person to the Registrar's Office and must be accompanied by a photo I.D. Students will be required to renew the request at the beginning of each academic year.
Students who wish to restrict directory information should realize that their names will not appear in the Commencement bulletin and other College publications. Also, employers, credit card companies, loan agencies, scholarship committees, and the like will be denied any of the student's directory information and will be informed that we have no information available about the student's attendance at Hartwick. Students who wish to have specific directory information released may do so by providing a written authorization to the Registrar's Office.
Consistent with its obligations under FERPA, Hartwick annually notifies students of the rights accorded them by FERPA.
Comments or suggestions should be addressed to the Hartwick Office of the Registrar at 607-431-4460.
If a parent or eligible student feels that the institution has not fully honored his/her privacy rights under FERPA, a written complaint may be filed with the Family Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Ave. SW, Washington, DC 20202-4605. The Family Compliance Office investigates each timely complaint to determine whether the educational agency or institution has failed to comply with the provisions of FERPA. A timely complaint is defined as an allegation that is submitted within 180 days of the date of the alleged violation or of the date that the complainant knew or reasonably should have known of the alleged violation.