Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
University of Arkansas - Fort Smith
What is FERPA?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), as amended (also 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 records and the access provided to these records. Any educational institution that receives funds under any program administered by the U.S. Department of Education is bound by FERPA requirements.
FERPA gives students four rights in regards to their education records:
- The right to review and inspect their education records
- The right to request an amendment to any part of their education records they believe is inaccurate or misleading
- The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education if the student feels their FERPA rights have been violated.
- The right to consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information (PII) in their education record, except in those instances when FERPA allows disclosure without consent.
What Are Education Records?
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 but not limited to paper forms, data stored electronically, microfilm, and email.
Education records do not include:
- Medical records maintained by the Powell Student Health Clinic or the Student Counseling Center.
- Records created and maintained by the University Police Department used only for law enforcement purposes.
- Employment records when employment is not contingent on being a student, provided the record is used only in relation to the individual's employment.
Post-attendance records such as information about a person obtained when the person was no longer a student (e.g., alumni records) and does not relate to the person as a student.
Who Can Access Education Records?
According to FERPA personally identifiable information (PII) 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 are:
- Disciplinary Status
- Grade Point Average (GPA)
- Marital Status
- SSN and Student ID Number
- Grades and Exam Scores
UAFS 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 child's education records unless the student has provided written authorization permitting the parents' access. Exceptions are granted for access by school officials 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, in response to a subpoena, or in a health or safety emergency.
Who Are “School Officials” and What Is a “Legitimate Educational Interest”?
A "school official" includes any person employed by UAFS in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support staff position (including law enforcement unit personnel and health staff); a person serving on the board of trustees; or a student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee. A school official also may include a volunteer or contractor outside of UAFS who performs an institutional service of function for which the school would otherwise use its own employees and who is under the direct control of the school with respect to the use and maintenance of PII from education records (e.g. attorneys, auditors, collection agents, the National Student Clearinghouse, or a student volunteering to assist another school official in performing his or her tasks).
“Legitimate educational interest” means a school official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibilities or assist a school official in doing so. Upon request UAFS also discloses education records without consent to officials of another school in which a student seeks or intends to enroll.
What Is Directory Information?
FERPA identifies certain information called directory information that may be disclosed without student consent, provided the university gives students the opportunity to request that directory information remain private.
UAFS has designated the following information as directory information and may release the information, unless the student has requested non-disclosure:
- Telephone Numbers
- Date of Birth
- Email Addresses
- Photos of Students
- Dates of Attendance
- Grade Level
- Enrollment Status (i.e. undergraduate or graduate, full- or part-time, no enrollment)
- Degree and Major/Minor
- Degrees and Awards Received and Dates Conferred
- Honors Received
- Previous Institutions Attended
- Participation in Officially Recognized Activities and Sports
Height and Weight of Athletic Team Members
How Do Students Request the Non-Disclosure of Directory Information?
Students who wish their directory information to remain private must complete the Request to Prevent Disclosure of Directory Information at the Registrar’s Office.
Students should carefully consider the ramifications of requesting that directory information be withheld. Any subsequent requests for such information from agencies or individuals outside of UAFS will be refused until otherwise directed by the student. UAFS will not contact the student for any subsequent permission to release directory information and assumes no liability for any negative affect of the non-disclosure on the student.
The request for non-disclosure includes listing the student’s name on the dean’s list, commencement program, and other UAFS publications.
How Can Parents Get Access to Their Child’s Educational Records?
Once a student turns 18 or attends an institution of higher education, parents may not access their child’s educational records unless the student has provided written authorization that specifically allows UAFS to release information to the parents.
To grant access the student must complete the FERPA Release of Student Information form, available from the Registrar’s Office.