Monday, February 21, 2011

What you need to know about FERPA

As part of my new job, I had to complete a training on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, known as FERPA. Have you ever heard of it?  Basically, FREPA is the federal law that protects your student records and information, and who has access to it.

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As a first generation and low income college student you familiarize yourself with FERPA so that you know your rights. Here is what you should know about FERPA: 

That's not an option. Colleges that receive any funding from the federal government must follow FERPA. This includes private and for-profit institutions, too. 

Age is just a number. No matter how old you are, once you're in college FERPA applies to you. As a college student, FERPA applies to you whether or not you are over 18. 

That's okay. Schools are allowed to share your "directory" information without your permission. This includes your full name, home and school address, phone number, birthday, birthplace, and any awards or honors. If you don't want your directory information shared, you have the right to request your information be kept confidential. 

Sharing is not caring. Anything in your student record beside your directory information is considered to be confidential, things like your grades, class schedule, registration status, and disciplinary actions. For the most part, this information cannot be released without your written permission, even to your parents. 

Exceptions to the rule. There are certain circumstances when schools can release your information, like when they're under lawful subpoena, sharing it with another school you have applied to, or are being audited by the federal government.

Keeping it on campus. The other reason a school might share your information is when campus officials have a legitimate educational interest for your benefit to share it with other campus officials. For example, when the financial aid office has to confirm you are enrolled full-time with the registrar for an on-campus scholarship, both offices (and the officials in them) have the right to share your information. 

Annual notification. The school has to notify you every year about your rights under FERPA. How they do it is up to the school, which means it could be anything from a letter, an online announcement, ad in the school newspaper, or even skywriting at the big homecoming game. But, the school does not have to notify you personally, just make an attempt that is likely to reach most students.

It is your right as a student to know what's in your student records as well as understand who does and doesn't have access to your information. You can thank FERPA for that.

Got questions? Please feel free to ask The Advisor about it. 

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