Section 1: FERPA-Protecting Student Rights
Welcome to FERPA: the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974.
This online training session is designed to provide you with information regarding the law and how it affects you as a member of the university's workforce.
Contained in this material are example scenarios of different situations that may occur when addressing requests for student information.
A printed version of the materials, supporting documents, and links to website resources are provided as well.
Privacy and confidentiality of personal and educational information is not a new concept in the academic setting. The FERPA Act of 1974 provides specific guidelines for protecting the information in student education records.
Today we want to examine what we currently do in the workplace to ensure information confidentiality and privacy, and we will highlight where FERPA strengthens our current university practices. We want to equip you with enough tools to protect the university and yourself against the liability of improper use or disclosure of protected student information to another party.
After completing this online training, if you encounter a situation where you are uncertain how to respond to a request for protected student information, please ask your supervisor for assistance or refer to the list of university contacts available to aid in making the right decision in reference to FERPA.
The four training goals for this session are:
First, to increase your knowledge and understanding of what is protected student information and how to ensure its privacy.
Secondly, to define your role and responsibility for assisting the university in following the FERPA guidelines and reporting any violations.
Thirdly, to enhance your understanding of FERPA and how to protect the confidentiality of student education records by following University and FERPA guidelines.
And finally, to provide resources and contact information on who can answer your additional questions about FERPA and protected student information.
This icon is used to identify key points throughout the FERPA Online Training Program. When applicable, please reference the icon for important information and guidelines.
General Privacy & Security Information
There are several mandated federal and state laws, as well as university policies, which outline our responsibilities to protect the information we manage in the course of our daily professional activities.
We can ensure the privacy of all information by implementing basic work habits designed to safeguard against the misuse of information. Daily work habits such as:
- Only share information on a need-to-know basis and not as a matter of gossip or conversation.
- Secure sensitive information in your work area so that documents are not visible to visitors.
- Design your work area so computer screens are not visible to others.
- Adhere to university guidelines for secure password management and utilize appropriate screen savers.
- Be sensitive to others hearing your work conversations on the telephone or in face-to-face meetings.
By implementing these simple and effective work habits, we are reinforcing our mandated practices and exercising our professional responsibility to protect specific information. Treat all information as if it was your own to protect and secure.
Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act of 1974
According to the FERPA Guide written by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), FERPA is:
"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."
The FERPA Act applies to both K-12 and higher education. The main difference between these two levels is that the rights are ascribed to the student at the higher education level and to the parents at the K-12 level. FERPA rights are granted to parents until their child reaches the age of 18 or begins attending an institution of higher education regardless of age. We have many students enrolled at our university who are under the age of 18. These students, who are typically classified as non-degree or extension students, are protected under FERPA.
The Act is enforced by the Family Policy Compliance Office, which is part of the U.S. Department of Education.
The Essence of the Act
Under FERPA there are exceptions for releasing student information. These exceptions will be addressed later in training.
- College students must be permitted to inspect their own education records.
- School officials may not disclose personally identifiable information about students nor permit inspection of their records without their written permission, unless such action is covered by certain exceptions permitted by the Act.
Why Comply With FERPA?
Who Is Covered Under FERPA?
Students who are or have been attending higher education institutions are covered under FERPA.
Applicants who are denied admission or who never attend are not covered under the law.
- Students who are or have been in attendance at a postsecondary institution are covered under FERPA.
- Applicants who are denied admission or who never attend are not covered under FERPA.
When Do FERPA Rights Begin and End for a Student?
FERPA rights actually begin for students when they begin attending an institution. Attendance means a student is officially registered for at least one class and that class has started.
Student's rights continue to be protected under FERPA even after they have left the institution, until their death.
- Rights begin when the student is "in attendance" as defined by the institution:
-A student is officially registered for at least one class and that class has started.
- FERPA rights are terminated only upon death of the student.
Student Rights Under FERPA
There are five primary rights students have under FERPA. The student has the right to:
First, inspect and review their education records.
Second, request an amendment to their record and a hearing if the request for amendment is inaccurate.
Third, file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education if they feel their rights are being violated.
Fourth, expect that their education records will be kept confidential.
And fifth, request that the university not disclose their directory information.
Students have the right to:
- Inspect and review their educational records.
- Request an amendment to their record and a hearing if the request for amendment is inaccurate.
- File a complaint with the U.S. Dept. of Education if they feel their rights are being violated.
- Expect that their education records are kept confidential except where special provisions are made.
- Suppress the disclosure of directory information.