The following is a notification of the rights under FERPA for students at postsecondary institutions.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), also known as the “Buckley Amendment,” was passed by Congress in 1974. It gives college students certain rights with respect to their educational record, including the rights:
- To inspect and review their educational records
- To request amendments to those records
- To withhold disclosure of such records except for situations involving legitimate educational interest, or as may be required by law
- To file a complaint with the FERPA office in Washington, D.C.
FERPA protects eligible students defined as being 18 years of age or older who are attending, or who have attended the institution; however, it does not extend those rights to applicants who apply for admission but who never actually enroll at the institution. Upon enrollment, the application for admission and related materials are automatically protected under FERPA. FERPA rights continue after a student has graduated or otherwise left the institution, but those rights cease upon death. Requests to review the records of a deceased student would be coordinated through the Office of the Registrar. Even in the event of a student death, the college is not obliged to share educational record information with those who make a request. It is best practice to consult a college official and they will act in accordance with the wishes of the deceased student’s family.
All schools must notify parents and eligible students annually of their rights under FERPA. The actual means of notification (webpage, special letter, student handbook, or newspaper article) is left to the discretion of each school. A general campus FERPA release form is available via the My Elmhurst Campus Portal and on Bluenet. Contact the Registrar for help with the form.
FERPA applies to all education agencies or institutions that receive funds under any program administered by the Secretary of Education, including Elmhurst College. FERPA defines educational records as those that 1) directly relate to a student, and 2) are maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution. FERPA provides guidance about what may be released but does not require that any information be released.
Examples of confidential educational records subject to FERPA protection are:
- Grades (midterm or final)
- Test scores or homework scores
- Student identification numbers (eNumbers) or Social Security numbers
- Financial Aid and Student Account Records
- Academic Advising notes
- Case Management notes
- Class attendance information
- Conduct or disciplinary reports
- Early action reports (progress reports)
Personal notes maintained by and for a sole individual as a memory aid, and not made available to any other school official, are exempted from this requirement under FERPA; however, such “sole possession notes” could be subject to discovery through a court subpoena.
If you are ever in doubt about which items are covered by FERPA it is best practice to not share or release any item until you have communicated with a college official.
There are several records that are not covered by FERPA. Some of these records include alumni records that were created after the individual is no longer a student in attendance and that are not directly related to the individual’s attendance as a student. Additionally, employment records are not covered by FERPA if the position does not require the employee to be a student to fill the position. If the position requires the individual to be a student, then the employment record is part of the student’s educational record and therefore is protected by FERPA. Finally, exempt from FERPA protection are some access and disabilities accommodations, law enforcement unit records, and treatment records at health or counseling centers, however, these records are covered by other and more stringent laws. Questions regarding health and counseling records should be addressed to the Vice President for Student Affairs and the question will be directed to the appropriate college official.
FERPA limits the right of the college to disclose records or information from records about any student without the student’s expressed written consent. FERPA prohibits disclosing such information to third parties but permits the disclosure of student information to other school officials within the college without obtaining the student’s consent if the school official has legitimate educational interest. A “school official” is defined as an instructor, department chair, program director, dean, vice president, president, board member, student affairs personnel, registrar, counselor, advisor, residence life professional, financial services personnel, admission officer, human resources personnel, health and counseling services professional, information systems specialist, accountant, campus security director, attorney, and support or clerical personnel.
Being an employee of the college does not imply that one has the right to access student educational records. A school official has educational interest if they need information from the records to carry about responsibilities of their role, and in doing so complete a specific function for the institution. Individuals at the institution who have an educational interest in the student’s educational record may share information internally to school officials that have a legitimate educational interest. For example, a faculty member can share information about a student’s attendance with the Director of Advising, who can in turn share that information with the Assistant Dean of Students.
Directory information is not considered confidential. Directory information includes such items as a student’s name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance. Students are advised that they can request a block to their directory information through the Office of Registration and Records. If a student does request a block, the information is only available to campus personnel and may not be released to individuals outside of the campus without the student’s expressed written consent. Questions about directory information can be addressed to the Registrar.
No. The college does not have to provide access to the financial records of parents or to confidential letters of recommendation which the student has waived the right to see. The student may not see records that pertain to other students, such as a course grade list of distribution. Students may not have access to any conduct matter involving another student except in the case where the information concerning all other students has been redacted. FERPA allows students to inspect their educational records within 45 days of their request, thus no request for review needs to be acted on immediately or before one has a chance to review the request with a supervisor or college official.
A student can request to view their academic records by submitting a written request to the Office of the Registrar. Record inspection will ordinarily be in person by appointment and require appropriate identification and in the presence of the dedicated personnel of the office. Copies of educational (disciplinary or academic) records are available to students for a small fee but are not released if the student has a financial hold on their account.
Under FERPA, a student may request changes in a record where an error has been identified that was the result of recording. Challenges to the factual nature of a record are to be made through the college procedure created for that action. For example, a student may argue that a grade was incorrectly recorded as a “B” rather than an “A” as their instructor had otherwise indicated and request that the grade be amended. Student requests for amendment of the record are initiated through the Office of Registration and Records.
FERPA does not limit disclosure or discussion of personal observations. For example, if a school official or college employee develops a concern about a student based on personal observations or a personal interaction with the student, the employee may disclose that concern to any school official without violating, or even implicating FERPA. In all cases, the student concern should be directed to the school official who is trained to evaluate and handle such concerns, including members of the Office of Student Affairs, the Wellness Center, or Campus Security.
Other than directory information, there are only a few exceptions that allow the release of information without the consent of the student.
In a true health or safety emergency, FERPA allows the College to disclose information to protect the student and others.
The College can inform the student’s parent or legal guardian of a drug or alcohol violation if the student is under the age of 21.
FERPA allows the College to disclose information in response to a duly issued subpoena or court order.
The College can share financial aid information with a parent in accordance with the Federal regulation.
In the case of all stated exceptions, one should consult a College official, supervisor, or the recognized FERPA authority before considering any disclosure that is not expressly permitted by the law.
FERPA permits disclosures of information in a health or safety emergency if considering the circumstances and available information, sharing information is necessary to protect the health and or safety of a student or other individual.
Separate Federal and state laws limit what may be disclosed from a student’s health or counseling records, but these rules also have exceptions for safety and emergencies. Any school official who has a concern about a student’s health or safety should refer the matter to the appropriate office as quickly as possible. Should the concern be about an imminent danger, one should contact Campus Security or call 911.
Other than the exceptions previously noted, information can be released to parents or legal guardians only with expressed written consent of the student. However, in the case where a parent or legal guardian can demonstrate that the student is a dependent for tax purposes in the most recent year, the College may release information to the parent(s) to which the student has dependency. It is important to note that FERPA does not require that the College release the information to the parent. Parental request for information is governed by the same rules as a student request for information and subject to release no later than 45 days after the request, but there is no requirement for immediate response.
All such requests should be reviewed with an appropriate college official or supervisor.
Summary and Reminders
There are many provisions for FERPA which are not presented in this document. A full copy of the law and various guidance documents published by the Federal government can be found here. It is important for everyone to be aware of and respect our students’ rights to privacy that FERPA was created to protect. If you are in a situation where you believe you must share information, records, or identities of students, consider that there may be a FERPA-related reason that you should not do so. The best course of action is to release information only after you have taken the time to consult with an appropriate college official or supervisor.
- Before releasing student directory information, check with the Office of Registration and Records to determine if a student has restricted access.
- Be mindful to post grades and return graded work in a manner that does not connect it to any personally identifiable information, including eNumbers.
- Do not disclose or re-disclose confidential information without the expressed written consent of the student. A general campus FERPA release form is available, contact the Registrar for information.
- Do not include any information regarding a student in another student’s record without said student’s expressed written permission.
- Should you receive a subpoena or court order requesting release of a student’s educational record or information, contact the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs.
- If you are in doubt about what information can be shared, or with whom the information can be shared, contact the Registrar.
All questions and concerns regarding FERPA, as well as inquiries from students, parents, or agencies, should be directed to the Registrar in the Office of Registration and Records.