Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
- What is FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act)?
- What are education records?
- Access to student education records
- Student's right to inspect, review, and/or correct his/her records
- Types, locations and custodians of education records
- What is directory or public information?
- Restricting release of directory information
- Annual notification to students
- FERPA tutorial
- Filing a complaint
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended (also sometimes referred to as the Buckley Amendment), is a federal law regarding the privacy of student records and the obligations of the institution, primarily in the areas of release of the records and the access provided to these records. Any educational institution that receives funds under any program administered by the U.S. Secretary of Education is bound by FERPA requirements. Institutions that fail to comply with FERPA may have funds administered by the Secretary of Education withheld.
Under FERPA, education records are defined as records that are directly related to a student and are maintained by an education agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution. Education records can exist in any medium, including: typed, computer generated, videotape, audiotape, film, microfilm, microfiche and email, among others.
Education records DO NOT INCLUDE such things as:
- sole possession records, i.e., records/notes in sole possession of the maker, used only as a personal memory aid and not revealed or accessible to any other person except a temporary substitute for the maker of the record (this might include notes an instructor makes while providing career/professional guidance to a student);
- medical treatment records that include but are not limited to records maintained by physicians, psychiatrists, and psychologists;
- employment records when employment is not contingent on being a student, provided the record is used only in relation to the individual's employment;
- records created and maintained by a law enforcement unit used only for only that purpose, are revealed only to law enforcement agencies of the same jurisdiction, and the enforcement unit does not have access to education records;
- post-attendance records, i.e., information about a person that was obtained when the person was no longer a student (alumni records) and does not relate to the person as a student.
According to FERPA, personally identifiable information in an education record may not be released without prior written consent from the student. Some examples of information that MAY NOT BE RELEASED without prior written consent of the student are:
- birth date
- religious affiliation
- disciplinary status
- grade point average (GPA)
- marital status
- SSN/student I.D.
- grades/exam scores
- test scores (e.g., SAT, GRE, etc.)
- progress reports, e.g. STARS
The university will not release personally identifiable information from a student's education record without the student's prior written consent. Even parents are not permitted access to their son or daughter's education records unless the student has provided written authorization permitting the parents' access. Exceptions are noted in the university's policy (located in the Office of the General Counsel and in the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs) concerning the privacy of student education records and includes: access by "school officials" who the institution has determined to have a "legitimate educational interest;" access by school officials at other schools where the student seeks to enroll; access for the purpose of awarding financial aid and subpoenas.
At USC these terms are defined below:
"University official" is any person employed by the university in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research or support staff position, a person elected to the Board of Trustees, a student serving on an official university committee, or a person employed by or under contract to the university to perform a specific task. A "university official" has a "legitimate educational interest" whenever he or she is performing a task that is specified in his or her position, description, or by a contract agreement, performing a task related to a student's education, performing a task related to the discipline of a student, providing a service or benefit relating to the student or student's family (such as health care, counseling, job placement or financial aid) or disclosure of information in response to a judicial order or legally issued subpoena. (NOTE: At USC all subpoenas are first reviewed by the Office of General Counsel to determine an appropriate response.)
Students and former students have rights to inspect and review their education records within 45 days from making such a request. The right of inspection and review includes: the right to access, with an explanation and interpretation of the record; the right to a copy of the education record when failure to provide a copy of the record would effectively prevent the student from inspecting and reviewing the record. The institution may refuse to provide a copy of a student's education record provided such refusal does not limit access.
Limitations exist on students' rights to inspect and review their education records. For example, the institution is not required to permit students to inspect and review the following:
- financial information submitted by parents;
- education records containing information about more than one student (however, the institution must permit access to that part of the records which pertains only to the inquiring student);
- confidential letters and recommendations placed in the student's file before 01/01/75;
- confidential letters and statements of recommendation, placed in the records after 01/01/75, to which the student has waived his or her right to review and that are related to the student's admission, application for employment or job placement, or receipt of honors. Upon a request from a student, he/she will be notified of the names of persons making the recommendations and that such recommendations cannot be used other than for the purposes for which they were intended.
Students may request that their education records be amended if they believe such information is inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of privacy rights. Students must request in writing that the office that maintains those records amend them. Students should identify the part of the records they want corrected and specify why they believe it is inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of privacy rights.
That office will review the request and inform the students in a reasonable amount of time after receiving the request. If the records custodian refuses to amend the record, students have the right to a hearing. A hearing officer appointed by the Vice President for Student Affairs will conduct the hearing. The hearing will be held within a reasonable amount of time after the request for the hearing has been received. The hearing officer will notify the student, reasonably in advance, of the date, place, and time of the hearing.
Students will be afforded a full and fair opportunity to present evidence relevant to the issue raised. One or more other persons, including an attorney, may accompany the student. The hearing officer/board will make its decision in writing based upon the evidence presented at the hearing. The decision will include a summary of the evidence presented and the reasons for the decision.
If the hearing officer/board supports the complaint, the education record will be amended accordingly and the student will be so informed. If the hearing officer/board decides not to amend the education record, students have the right to place in the education record a statement commenting on the challenged information and/or stating the reasons for disagreement with the decision. This statement will be maintained as part of the education record as long as the contested portion of the record is maintained, and whenever a copy of the education record is sent to any party, the student's statement will be included.TYPES, LOCATIONS, AND CUSTODIANS OF EDUCATION RECORDS
|Academic Records||School of Dentistry||Registrar, Dental School|
|(dental students)||DEN-216 MC 0641|
|Academic Records||Office of the Dean||Custodian of Records|
School of Medicine
|Academic Records||Law School||Registrar, Law Center|
|(law students)||LAW 300 MC 0071|
Registration & Records
|(undergraduate/graduate students)||REG 205|
|Financial Aid Records||Admissions/Financial Aid||Associate Dean|
|SAS 340 MC 0911|
|Financial Records||Financial Services||Executive Director|
|UGB 203 MC 8002|
|Health Records||Student Health Center||Director, Patient Care|
|SHC 202B MC 0311|
|Student Conduct Records||Student Judicial Affairs and||Director|
|Community Standards Office|
FERPA has specifically identified certain information called directory information that may be disclosed without student consent. Although directory information may be disclosed without student consent, USC is not required to release directory information.USC has designated the following information as directory information and may release this information, unless the student has submitted a request for non-disclosure:
- address (local and permanent)
- telephone number (local and permanent)
- university email address
- student photo
- USC attendance dates
- USC degrees earned (with dates)
- academic honors
- major, minor and degree objective
- expected date of graduation
- previous schools attended
- enrollment status (class level)
- currently enrolled (Y/N)
- participation in officially recognized activities and sports
According to FERPA, a student can request that the institution not release any directory information about him/her. Institutions must comply with this request, once received, if the student is still enrolled.
At USC, students who wish to restrict the release of directory information about themselves must complete a "Request To Restrict Directory Information" form, available in the lobby of the Registration Building or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Students have the choice of restricting on-line student directory information, or they can restrict the release of all of their directory information. The completed form must be submitted in person to the Registrar's office and must be accompanied by a photo I.D. Students will be required to renew the request at the beginning of each academic year.
Students who wish to restrict directory information should realize that their names will not appear in the commencement bulletin and other university publications. Also, employers, credit card companies, loan agencies, scholarship committees and the like will be denied any of the student's directory information and will be informed that we have no information available about the student's attendance at USC. Students who wish to have specific directory information released may do so by providing a written authorization to the Registrar's Office.
Consistent with its oblications under FERPA, USC annually notifies students of the rights accorded them by FERPA.
USC students are notified of their FERPA rights in SCampus.
The notification must inform students that they have the following rights:
All faculty and staff, as well as any other agents of the university who request access to student academic records, must complete the FERPA tutorial and submit a signed acknowledgement form. Access to student records, including the academic records database, will be denied until the tutorial has been completed and the form submitted. The tutorial is intended to insure that anyone accessing student records understands the obligations under FERPA for proper use and protection of student records. All questions in the tutorial are supported by information found in this website. Before you begin the tutorial you should review all of the topics found on the FERPA homepage.
The tutorial will take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete. To begin the tutorial, click here.
General questions may be directed to the Office of the General Counsel or the Office of Compliance, the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, the Office for Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards or the Office of the Registrar, as appropriate. Comments or suggestions should be addressed to the USC Registrar's Office, Ferpahelp@usc.edu, (213) 740-6963, MC 0912.
If a parent or eligible student feels that the institution has not fully honored his/her privacy rights under FERPA, a written complaint may be filed with the Family Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Ave. SW, Washington, DC 20202-4605. The Family Compliance Office investigates each timely complaint to determine whether the educational agency or institution has failed to comply with the provisions of FERPA. A timely complaint is defined as an allegation that is submitted within 180 days of the date of the alleged violation or of the date that the complainant knew or reasonably should have known of the alleged violation.
Last modified: August 10, 2005