University Registrar

FERPA FAQ

 

What is FERPA?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974, as amended, is a federal law. The law is often referred to as the Buckley Amendment. The law is codified at 20 U.S.C. 1232g. The U.S. Department of Education has adopted regulations which implement FERPA and explain FERPA's requirements at 34 CFR Part 99.
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What is the purpose of FERPA?

 FERPA governs access to and privacy of student records at institutions that receive federal monies. In general, the law allows a student to review and inspect his or her education records and the law limits the disclosure of information contained in the student's educational records without first obtaining the student's consent.
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Does FERPA apply to all students?

Yes. FERPA applies to all students who attend post-secondary institutions, including Armstrong.  Students enrolled in any courses offered by Armstrong and through the Liberty Center (i.e., campus/on-site, hybrid, partially online and fully online) are covered by FERPA.
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Does FERPA apply to those individuals who apply for admission to the university?

No. FERPA does not apply to applicants who are denied admission, nor does FERPA apply to those applicants who were accepted but did not attend Armstrong.
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What rights did FERPA create?

FERPA created two basic rights. First, it granted a right of access by the student to the student's educational records. Second, FERPA created a student's right to privacy in those records so that access by others is controlled and limited. Pursuant to FERPA students have the right:
 

  • To be notified of their privacy rights under FERPA
  • To inspect and review their educational records within 45 days of a written request
  • To request amendment to their education record and the right to a hearing if their request is denied
  • To consent to the disclosure of personally-identifiable information
  • To file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education if they feel their FERPA rights are violated

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What are "education records?"

Education records are any record (written, printed, taped, filmed, etc.) maintained by the university that is directly related to a student except for (1) personal notes kept in the maker's sole possession, (2) certain campus law enforcement records, (3) alumni records, and (4) certain medical records used only for treatment purposes. The term is very broad. Therefore, with few exceptions, almost any record received or created on the university campus about a student must be handled in compliance with FERPA.
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What is meant by "disclosure" of information?

Disclosure means to permit access to or the release, transfer or other communication of personally-identifiable information contained in an educational record to any party except the party who originally provided the information. This includes any communication no matter whether the communication is oral, written, or electronic.
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What information can be disclosed without the student's written consent?

In general, only directory information can be disclosed to other persons without the student's written consent. However, the student may limit or prohibit the disclosure of directory information by submitting a written request. Federal law provides certain exceptions to this student privacy right. For example, school officials with a legitimate educational interest may inspect a student's records regardless of consent. For more information about available exceptions please contact the Registrar or the Office of Legal Affairs.
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What is "Directory Information?"

Directory information is information not generally considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. Directory information may include:

  • Name and  address
  • Enrollment status (undergraduate or graduate; full-time or part-time)
  • Field of study (major)
  • Dates of attendance
  • Degrees, honors and awards received
  • Participation in officially-recognized activities and sports
  • Weight and height of members of athletic teams

Directory information cannot include student identification numbers or social security numbers.
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Can a student prohibit the release of directory information?

 Yes. However, to do so, the student must submit a written request to the Registrar.
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Are parents exempt from FERPA's privacy restrictions?

No. Parents do not have the right to access records of university students. Even parents who pay the student's tuition, fees and housing costs are not allowed to access their child's student records except in these three situations:

  • They have written consent of the student
  • In response to a subpoena (the student must be notified of the records released)
  • They can prove that they claimed the student as a dependent on their most recent Federal Income Tax return.

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Who is responsible for seeing that FERPA is upheld?

All university employees who have access to student records are responsible for guarding the confidentiality of those records (including all academic records such as tests, papers, etc.)
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Can a student inspect and review his or her educational records if a hold has been placed on their account or if there is an unresolved disciplinary or academic action against the student?

Yes. Even though the student may owe money to the university or have an unresolved action pending against him or her, the student still has the right to inspect, review and challenge the accuracy of the information contained in their record. [Note: in this situation the student would not be allowed to obtain a copy of his or her transcript.]
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Does a student have a right to obtain copies of their educational records under FERPA?

No, not necessarily. Unlike the right to inspect and review records, there is no absolute right to obtain copies. Copies need only be given when the failure to do so would effectively prevent the student from exercising the right to examine the records, e.g., where the student lives too far away to commute to the campus.
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Is it OK to answer questions about education records over the phone, by email or by fax?

No. It is a very bad idea unless you know for certain that the person on the other end is the student or is a "qualified" parent or guardian. There are situations where a person has posed as a student or a parent in order to obtain information for use in litigation or to locate the student for credit purposes or to harass or stalk the student. Thus, the refusal to answer inquiries that are not made in person (and with positive ID) is justified, not only to comply with federal law but also to protect our students. A "qualified" parent or guardian means that the parent or guardian has obtained a signed consent authorizing the release or disclosure of the information or that the student was claimed as a dependent on the parents' most recent federal tax return ( a copy of these documents must be on file).
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Does FERPA allow the university to disclose the final results of a university proceeding to the alleged victim of any crime of violence or of a non-forcible sex offense without the alleged student perpetrator's consent?

Yes, the university has the discretion to disclose the final results of a university proceeding to the alleged victim of any crime of violence or of a non-forcible sex offense. Crimes of violence include: assault, intimidation (fear of bodily harm through threats or other conduct including stalking), burglary, robbery, destruction/ damage/vandalism of property, or sex offenses involving force. Non-forcible sex offenses include statutory rape and incest. [Note: check with the Office of Legal Affairs before disclosing the results to anyone other than the alleged victim, as there are legal conditions that must be met.]
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Does FERPA permit the university to disclose information regarding the violation of any state or federal laws or university policy governing the use or possession of alcohol or drugs to the parent or guardian of a student?

Yes. The university may disclose to the parent or guardian of a student under the age of 21, any information regarding the violation of a law or of a university policy governing the use of alcohol or of a controlled substance when the university determines that the student is responsible for a student conduct violation involving alcohol or drugs.
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Does FERPA permit the university to disclose a student's treatment records (counseling) or educational records to law enforcement, to the student's parents or others if the university believes the student presents a serious danger to him or herself or others?

Yes. A student's treatment records or education records may be disclosed to law enforcement or a student's parents in connection with an emergency if the university determines that knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals.
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What is "personally-identifiable information?"

Personally-identifiable information includes: (1) the student's name, (2) the name of the student's parents or legal guardian, (3) the address of the student or the student's family, (4) any personal identifier such as a student identification number or social security number, and (5) the student's date of birth. In short, personally-identifiable information means any information that would make the student's identity easily traceable.
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Are there rules specifying how the student's consent to release records must be given?

Yes. The consent must (1) be given in writing and signed by the student, (2) specifically specify the records to be disclosed, (3) state the purpose of the disclosure, and (4) identify the person or persons to whom the disclosure may be made.
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SEE ALSO

Student Rights
Disclosure to Students
Withholding Directory Information