What you should know aboutFERPA
Office of the RegistrarGeorgia Southwestern State UniversityLast updated 01-AUG-2004
This presentation is designed to give a brief overview of FERPA as it relates to the records of students. Any questions regarding specific matters should be forwarded to the Registrars Office for clarification. The Board of Regents will be consulted when necessary. FERPA should not be confused with the Open Records Act or Solomon Amendment.
What is FERPA and for what purpose does it exist?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as Amended (FERPA) is a federal law. The purpose of this law is to afford students certain rights pertaining to their educational records.
Does FERPA apply to applicants?
FERPA does not apply to applicantswho are denied admission or to thoseapplicants who were accepted but didnot attend.
Does FERPA apply to all students?
FERPA applies to all students who attend post-secondary institutions.
Briefly, what does FERPA guarantee?FERPA gives students the right to inspect and review their own recordsto request amendments to their record to have some control over the release of personally identifiable information from their records
Who is responsible for seeing that FERPA is upheld?
Generally speaking, all GSW employees who have access to records are responsible for guarding the confidentiality of student records.Specifically, requests for access to records, requests for amendment of records and complaints regarding any violation of FERPA are to be filed with the Office of the Registrar.
What is meant by Disclosure of Information?Permitting access to or the release of personally identifiable information to any party. This includes any communication by oral, written, electronic or any other means.Schools are not allowed to disclose information (other than Directory Information) without the students written consent except under very limited conditions.
How are students made aware of FERPA?
Although we are required to notify students annually regarding their FERPA rights, the methods used to communicate this information are left up to the school. Notification at GSW is done via annual mailings, publication in the University Bulletin, the Weathervane, and the Registrars Office web page (http://www.gsw.edu/academics/registrar.html).
What is Directory Information?
"Directory Information" is information not generally considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. GSW considers the following information to be "Directory Information":Name, e-mail address and telephone listingLevel (graduate or undergraduate)Field of study (major)Dates of attendanceDegrees, date awarded, associated honors /designationsEnrollment status (full-time or part-time)
WHAT IS NOT CONSIDERED DIRECTORY INFORMATION?Social Security NumbersStudent I.D. NumbersStudent BirthdateStudent Address----even an on-campus address.
These items must NEVER be released!
Can a student prohibit release of Directory Information?Yes. Students who wish to prohibit the release of "Directory Information" should complete the annual notification and return it to the Registrars Office. This notification is mailed August 1st every year.Consulting the University Bulletin and/or the Registrars home page will provide additional guidelines.
How can I know if a student has asked that no information be released?
Students who have asked that no information be released have the word CONFIDENTIAL displayed at the top of every form in BANNER/RAIN. WHEN IN DOUBT, consult the Registrars Office!CONFIDENTIAL
Are parents exempt from FERPA restrictions?
No. Parents do not have the right to access records of students at the post-secondary level. Not even if they are paying all tuitionnot even if they cryexcept in these three cases: They have the written consent of the student.In response to a subpoena (the student must be notified that records were released).They can prove that they claimed the student as a dependent on their most recent Federal Income Tax form.
Can Information Be Released if a Students Record is Marked Confidential?Yes, if you have one of the following:Students Written RequestSubpoenaCopy of Federal Tax Form Claiming the Student as a Dependent
HOWEVER, no information should be released without one of the items listed above!!
What should you do if you are not sure if you can release information?When in doubt, saying nothing is your best optionDont play the Guessing GameIt is far better to NOT release information than to release information incorrectly
Which requests should you forward to the Registrars Office?All requests for transcripts - only the Registrars Office can generate an official transcript Certification requests - verification of enrollment for lenders, health insurance, good student car insurance discount formsQuestions regarding the academic record of any student
Lets See How FERPA Smart You AreA father calls and asksfor his sons grades. Hecan fax a copy of histax return proving thatthe student is hisdependent. Can yourelease the grades?Only if you can know withcertainty that you arespeaking to the father(which cannot be verified over the phone).Suggest that his son ordera transcript to be mailed tothe fathers address.
How Would You Respond To...An author requestsacademic informationon Jimmy Carter. Sinceall of PresidentCarters records arealready a matter ofpublic record, can yourelease the information? No, FERPA rightscontinue even after astudent is no longerenrolled.
FERPA rights do endupon the death of astudent.
OK, What About
A student asks to seehis records. You notice that he has a hold forparking fines. Can youmake him pay the finebefore viewing hisrecord?No, students have theright to view theirrecord even if they owemoney. Can he have acopy of his transcript? No, GSW is notrequired to release acopy if the student owesmoney.
But Its An Emergency...A Sumter County policeofficer comes to your officebecause she needs to find a student.She has been looking forthe student for a week, but cant catch him at thedorm. Can you give her thestudents schedule? If shes been looking fora week, its not anemergency! The release ofnon-directory information is appropriate only ifnecessary to protect thehealth or safety of thestudent or other individuals.
One Last ExampleThe local Baptist church affiliated with ourcommunity asks for a list of all new internationalstudents and theircountry of origin so thatthey can invite them to adinner during theholidays. OK? Although the thought is anice one, country oforigin is not consideredDirectory Information.The Baptist church members are not considered to beschool officials andshould be treated like any outside party.
Know Everything Now???No one can possibly know every detail of FERPA and how it is to be applied, not even the Registrar (me).
When in doubt, DONT release information! It is better to take a message and return a phone call rather than release information by accident.
Failure to comply with FERPA can not only cause legal difficulty for GSW, but can cost you your job.