Understanding FERPA

Understanding FERPA
If you are a student attending a college that receives federal funds through the U.S. Department of Education, your education records are protected by federal law. The Federal Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), sometimes referred to as the Buckley Amendment, is a law that regulates the privacy of student records.

Below is information to help you learn the answers to common questions about college education records privacy.

Frequently asked questions about FERPA:

What rights does FERPA grant me as a college student?
  • The right to review your education records (within 45 days of your request)
  • The right to initiate corrections to your education records
  • The right to limit the disclosure of your education information to those with a legitimate purpose
  • The right to file formal complaints against your school if you believe that your rights have been violated

What records are education records according to FERPA?
Records related to your education that contain information identifying you as an individual is generally protected under FERPA. However, campus police records, campus medical records, and personal notes about students maintained by faculty and staff members are not considered education records under FERPA.

Directory information, which is information your college could publish in a directory containing information about all students, is outside FERPA's definition of education records. Colleges have the right publish directory information about students without their consent. Specific pieces of information covered under the term "directory information" vary among institutions. It includes information about students that, if disclosed, is not generally considered to be harmful. Directory information may include information such as your name, address, honors and awards, and dates of attendance. Even though colleges are permitted to publish this information without your consistent, they must give you an opportunity to request your information be excluded. Many colleges require that you renew this request to exclude information each year. Check with your college for details.

When can my education information be released without my permission?

FERPA permits the release of education records without students’ permission in specific situations:
  • To colleges where you are transferring
  • To college faculty and staff who need the information as part of their job
  • To state or local authorities when required by law
  • For financial aid purposes
  • When compelled by a court of law
  • During health or safety emergencies
  • For audit, analysis, evaluation, or accreditation purposes

While colleges have permission under FERPA to release your records in these circumstances, many colleges have more strict policies and require student permission even under some of these circumstances.

What is required to give consent to release my records?

When you want your information released to a third party, you must give written consent for the disclosure of education records that do not fall under an exception. The consent must include the specific records to be released, the reason for the disclosure, the name of the party to whom the information is to be disclosed, the current date, and your signature.

Can my parents access my education records without my consent?

FERPA allows schools to disclose student records to parents without the student’s consent if the student is considered dependent for tax purposes. Although FERPA allows this type of disclosure, students and parents should check with individual colleges regarding their policies related to disclosure of dependent student's information.

It is important to understand your rights related to your education records to protect your privacy. Use the above information to gain a general understanding of FERPA. To learn more in-depth information, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website (https://www.edu/gov). Because each college has its own policies and procedures related to FERPA and any relevant state laws, it is best to check with your college for specific information about their specific policies regarding education records.

Related Articles
Editor's Picks Articles
Top Ten Articles
Previous Features
Site Map

Content copyright © 2023 by Susan D. Bates. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Susan D. Bates. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Eliza Morrison Nimmich for details.