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Understanding and Complying with FERPA. Beloit College June 2006. What is FERPA?. It stands for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. Also known as the Buckley Amendment. Protects the privacy of a student’s educational records.

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Understanding and Complying with FERPA

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Understanding and Complying with FERPA

Beloit College

June 2006

What is FERPA?

  • It stands for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974.

  • Also known as the Buckley Amendment.

  • Protects the privacy of a student’s educational records.

  • Applies to all educational agencies or institutions that receive funds under any program administered by the Secretary of Education.

  • Enforced by the Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) of the U.S. Department of Education, Washington DC.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974

  • “A federal law designed to protect the privacy of education records, to establish the right of students to inspect and review their education records, and to provide guidelines for the correction of inaccurate and misleading data through informal and formal hearings.”

FERPA is applicable to both K-12 and higher education. The Family Compliance Office is responsible for both levels of education.

The main difference in FERPA between these two levels is that the rights ascribed to the “student” at the higher education level are given to the parents at the K-12 level. FERPA rights are granted to parents until their son/daughter reaches the age of 18 or begins attending an institution of higher education regardless of age.

FERPA is not:

  • A disease that only Registrar’s Office workers get.

  • A law that only pertains to public institutions.

  • Applicable only to offices that handle grades.

Why Comply with FERPA?

  • To protect the college records of students from unlawful disclosure.

  • It’s the law.

  • Failure to comply could result in the withholding of Federal Funds, including Student Financial Aid.

  • Lawsuits caused by violations cost time and $$$.

Key Terms

  • Student

  • Education Record

  • Personally Identifiable

  • Directory Information

  • School Officials

Rights granted to Students by FERPA

  • Right to expect that their education records are kept confidential

  • Right to inspect and review education records

  • Right to seek to amend education records

  • Right to have some control over the disclosure of any information, including directory information, from education records

  • Right to file a complaint with the Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) of the U.S. Department of Education, Washington DC, if they feel their rights are being violated

When do FERPA rights begin and end for a student?

  • Rights begin when the student is “in attendance” as defined by the institution.

  • For Beloit College, this means when a person has matriculated (been admitted, enrolled in classes, and begun attending classes for the first time).

  • FERPA rights continue after the student leaves the institution and are only terminated upon death of the student.

Who is and is not covered under FERPA?

  • Studentswho are or have been in attendance at a postsecondary institution are covered under FERPA.

  • Applicantswho are denied admission or who never attend are not covered under FERPA.

What are Education Records?

  • All records that directly relate to a student and are maintained by an institution or by a party acting for the institution.


  • “Record” means any information maintained in any way, including, but not limited to:

    • Handwriting

    • Video or audio tape

    • Computer media

    • Film

    • Print

    • Microfilm and microfiche

What are not Education Records?

  • Exceptions to “education records” include:

    • Sole possession records

    • Law enforcement records

    • Employment records

    • Medical records

    • Alumni records

What are not Education Records? (Contd.)

  • Personal Notes –kept by a faculty/staff member, if kept in the sole possession of the one who made the record.

    - Sharing personal notes with another person or placing them in an area where they can be viewed by others makes them “education records”.

  • Law Enforcement Unit Records –maintained solely for law enforcement purposes & revealed only to law enforcement agencies.

What are not Education Records? (Contd.)

  • Employment Records – of those whose employment is not contingent upon being a student.

    • Records created as a result of being a student (work study, graduate assistant, etc.) are education records.

  • Medical Records - created by a health care professional used only for the medical/health treatment of the student.

  • Alumni Records - created after student has left the institution.

Personally Identifiable

  • Includes Data or information such as:

    • Parent’s name

    • Address of the student or student’s family

    • A personal identifier, such as social security number or student number

    • A list of personal characteristics or other information that would make the student’s identity easily traceable

What information might need to be handled in a secure way?

  • Items such as:

    • Registration forms

    • Transcripts

    • Student information displayed on a computer screen

    • Grades

    • Student schedules

    • Class assignments

    • Class Rosters

    • Any paper with the student’s SSN on it.

    • Billing statements

    • Financial Aid forms

Directory Information

  • Directory information is:

    • Information not generally considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed

    • FERPA provides guidelines for what may be considered directory information

    • Each institution may choose, based on FERPA guidelines, what information it considers directory information.

Directory Information at Beloit College includes:

  • Name

  • Address and telephone listing (local and permanent)

  • Date of birth

  • Dates of registered attendance

  • Major field of study

  • Degrees and awards received

  • Participation in officially recognized activities and sports

  • Weight/height of members of the athletic teams

  • Most recent previous educational institution attended

  • Enrollment status (full-time/part-time)

To whom/under what conditions may colleges disclose personally identifiable information?

  • To anyone requesting directory information only, provided the student has not requested non-disclosure of directory information.

  • NOTE: Beloit College policy is to NOT release directory information.

  • To anyone per written consent of student.

When does Beloit College release student information?

  • The Registrar’s Office does VERIFY directory information, if requested by a prospective employer, for example.

What may NOT be Directory Information

  • Items that can never be identified as directory information are:

    • Social Security Number

    • Citizenship

    • Gender

    • Religious Preference

    • Grades

    • Grade Point Average (GPA)

Who may access Student Information without obtaining written consent?

  • Beloit College faculty, staff, and other designated officials, who, to carry out their responsibilities, have a legitimate educational interest.

Designated School (College) Officials are:

  • Members of the Board of Trustees

  • Faculty and staff under contract or appointment to the College

  • College administrators

  • Temporary employees, for the period substituting for an administrative staff or faculty member

  • Faculty, staff, and students performing a special administrative task such as secretaries, clerks, attorneys, auditors, disciplinary and judicial panel members, etc. for the period of their performance as an employee or contractor.

Legitimate educational interest

  • Legitimate educational interest is defined as “the need to know” in order to:

    • Perform an administrative task outlined in person’s official job duties

    • Perform a supervisory or instructional task directly related to the student’s education

    • Perform a service or benefit for the student such as health care, job placement, financial aid, etc.

Who else may access Student Information without obtaining prior written consent?

  • Authorized representatives of the following governmental agencies, in connection with an audit or evaluation of a program or for compliance with requirements of a program:

    • U.S. Comptroller General

    • U.S. Secretary of Education

    • U.S. Attorney General

    • State & Local Educational Authorities

Who else may access Student Information without obtaining prior written consent? (Contd.)

  • Agents acting on behalf of the institution (e.g., National Student Clearinghouse for enrollment/degree verifications)

  • Providers of student financial aid (this does not include payments made by parents)

  • Organizations conducting studies for or on behalf of educational institutions

  • Accrediting organizations (for accrediting purposes)

  • Compliance with judicial order or subpoena

  • Schools to which student seeks/intends to enroll

Who else may access Student Information without obtaining prior written consent? (Contd.)

  • Parents/legal guardians of students under age 21 when a student is found in violation of alcohol or controlled substance policy of the institution (Foley Amendment)

  • Anyone, if health or safety emergency exists and the information will assist in resolving the emergency

  • Alleged victim of a crime of violence may obtain results of disciplinary hearing regarding the perpetrator of that crime

  • Anyone requesting final results of an institutional disciplinary hearing in which the accused has been determined to be the alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence or of a non-forcible sex offense (Warner Amendment)

Who else may access Student Information without obtaining prior written consent? (Contd.)

  • Military recruiters who request “Student Recruiting Information” for recruiting purposes only (Solomon Amendment). Refer such queries to the Registrar.

  • Internal Revenue Service for purposes of compliance with the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997

  • Authorized representatives of the Department of Veterans Affairs for students receiving educational assistance from the agency

  • The student

Parents’ Rights under FERPA

FERPA stipulates:

  • Parents may obtain directory information.

  • Parents may obtain non-directory information by obtaining a signed consent from their child.

  • Parents who claim student as a dependent under the Internal Revenue Code may obtain access upon providing evidence of such dependencies.

  • NOTE: At Beloit College, it is our policy NOT to release any information to parents without a signed release from the student.


  • Access to Student information via Datatel/WebAdvisor or other computer software does not authorize unrestricted use of that information.

  • Curiosity is not a valid reason to view student information.

  • Records should only be accessed in the context of official business.

MORE Important Info:

  • When in doubt – don’t give it out.

  • Refer requests for student information to the Registrar or Dean of Students.

  • Information about a student may be released with a signed consent from the student.

  • Information on a computer should be treated with the same confidentiality as a paper copy.

More, more important info:

  • 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.

Record Disposal

  • Records containing Social Security Numbers or grades should be shredded, not just thrown in the garbage or placed in an unsecured recycling bin.


If you have additional questions, contact the Registrar.

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