FERPA Questions & Answers

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What is an Education Record?

An education record is any record that is directly related to a student and is kept by the University. This is an extremely broad definition, therefore, unless one of the exceptions noted below applies, it is best to assume that if it relates to a student it is an education record.

What is Not an Education Record?

There are several exceptions to the definition of an education record under FERPA. Some key exceptions are:

  • Sole possession records – faculty records or advising records that are not disclosed to other parties except someone who must serve as substitute for a given course. Personal grade books or draft exams are examples of these records. However, even though a student might not have right to access the personal grade book, due process might require access to the student's own grades under some circumstances such as a grade grievance. A student's transcript is an education record.
  • Records of a law enforcement unit of the educational agency or institution that were created by that law enforcement unit for the purpose of law enforcement.
  • Employment records unless employment is a result of student status, such as work study.
  • Medical treatment records may not be considered an education record but they are confidential under other law and professional ethics requirements.

When is written consent not necessary?

Set forth below are situations when the student's written consent is not necessary prior to disclosing student record information:

  • Disclosures to other school officials with a legitimate educational interest in the information or document (see below for a further explanation of this exception).
  • Disclosures to authorized representatives for audit of Federal or State supported programs.
  • Disclosures to Veteran's Administration officials.
  • Disclosures to other schools where the student intends to enroll on the condition that the issuing institution makes a reasonable attempt to inform the student of the disclosure.
  • In an emergency situation. An emergency exists when the information being provided is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals.
  • Disclosures to persons or organization providing financial aid to students.
  • Disclosures to accrediting organizations carrying out accrediting functions.
  • Disclosures made in compliance with a judicial order or a lawfully issued subpoena if the institution makes a reasonable attempt to notify the student in advance of compliance.
  • The results of an institutional disciplinary proceeding may be disclosed to an alleged victim of any crime of violence.
  • Disclosure to an outside contractor if that contractor is a "party acting for" the institution and is performing a service which the institution would otherwise have to perform for itself (such as use of the National Student Loan Clearinghouse for loan verification).

What is a legitimate educational interest?

A University may disclose education records to school officials with a legitimate educational interest in the information or document without the student's consent. The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point defines a school official as "a person employed by the University; a person or company with whom the University has contracted (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent); a student serving on an official committee such as a disciplinary or grievance committee, or assisting another University official in performing his or her tasks." A school official has a legitimate educational interest if "the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his/her professional responsibilities."

Who is protected under FERPA?

Any student who is or has been in attendance has FERPA rights. These rights are exercised by the student (even students under 18) in postsecondary institutions whereas in elementary and secondary schools the rights are exercised by the parent.

What are the student's rights?

Students primarily have the following rights under FERPA:

  • The right to inspect and review their education records within a maximum of 45 days after the request is made. This right includes (1) the right to an explanation and interpretation of the record, (2) the right to a copy of the education records when failure to provide a copy of the record would effectively prevent the student from inspecting and reviewing the record.
  • The right to request the amendment of education records if the student believes the records are inaccurate or misleading.
  • The right to prevent the unauthorized disclosure of their student records.
  • The right to complain to the Department of Education about a violation of FERPA

Students do not have the right to inspect and review the following:

  • Financial information submitted by parents.
  • Confidential letters and recommendations placed in their files prior to January 1, 1975.
  • Confidential letters and recommendations placed in their files after January 1, 1975 to which the student has waived his or her right to inspect and review and that are related to the students' admission, application for employment or job placement, or receipt of honors.
  • Education records containing information about more than one student

Do parents have any rights under FERPA?

When your student was in elementary and high school, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) gave you and your student rights to access and control your student's educational records. Now that your student is in college, these same laws transfer ownership of the records directly to your son or daughter.

According to FERPA, college students are considered responsible adults and are allowed to determine who will receive information about them. We at UWSP believe that this communication between parent and student will foster long term growth in relationships.

The quickest, easiest way for you to receive information about your student's grades, financial statement, or other student information is for him/her to provide it to you. Students can look information up online, and give or e-mail a copy to their parents. Student records are available through their myPoint account.

Can a student refuse to allow directory information to be released?

Yes, a student may withhold Directory Information by completing the request to withhold directory information form. Please note that such withholding requests are binding for all information to all parties other than for those exceptions allowed under the Act. Students should consider all aspects of a Directory Hold prior to filing such a request. Requests for non-disclosure will be in effect until the student authorizes a change.

Please consider very carefully the consequences of any decision by you to remove these items from the list of "directory information." Should you decide to inform the university not to release any or all of this "directory information," any future request for such information from non-university persons or organizations will be refused. A prospective employer requesting confirmation of your major field of study or address would also be denied access to such items, should you withdraw them from the list of "directory information." The university will honor your request to withhold any of the items listed above but cannot assume responsibility to contact you for subsequent permission to release them. Regardless of the effect upon you, the university assumes no liability of honoring your instructions that such information be withheld.

Should faculty be careful about how grades are posted?

Yes. The public posting of grades by student name, University of Wisconsin Stevens Point identification number or social security number without the student's written permission is a violation of FERPA. Any faculty member who posts grades must use a system that ensures FERPA requirements are met. For example, a system using code words or randomly assigned numbers known only by the instructor and the individual student is one option. Do not leave a stack of graded exams in a place where other students or individuals can access them. Also, do not disclose one student's grade to other students.

What should a faculty/staff member do before writing a letter of reference for a student?

FERPA prohibits the disclosure of non-directory information about a student (such as performance in class, grades, attitude, abilities and background) whether it is conveyed in writing, in person or by telephone to third parties.

Often references are provided by faculty members upon the informal request of a student. Even though references are usually positive, FERPA requires faculty and staff to obtain written consent before providing the reference information to third parties. Letter of Recommendation Release

Who can I speak to if I have further questions about FERPA?

Please contact the Registrar's Office with further questions. All faculty members should also read the Annual Notification of Students Rights Under FERPA that is listed on the Registrars website.

UWSP Rights & Responsibilities