What is FERPA?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended, also known as the Buckley Amendment, is a federal law that governs the confidentiality of student records. Generally, the law requires that educational institutions maintain the confidentiality of what are termed "education records," ensures that each student has access to his or her education records, and provides students with a limited opportunity to correct erroneous education records.
FERPA applies to the education records of persons who are or have been in attendance at the University of Idaho. With certain exceptions, education records are those records maintained by the university which are directly related to a student. This is an extremely broad definition.
FERPA may be more permissive or restrictive than the privacy and public information laws of some states. Therefore, the Idaho Public Records Law must be taken into account when the University of Idaho considers issues related to student records.
Why must the university comply with FERPA Regulations?
FERPA applies to all schools that receive funding under most programs administered by the Secretary of Education. Most colleges and universities receive such funding and must comply with FERPA. The University of Idaho receives various types of federal funding including research grants and student financial aid.
Basic Provisions of FERPA
The University of Idaho Faculty-Staff Handbook Section 2600 outlines our student records policy.
The general rule of FERPA is that you may not have access to, or release "education records" to third parties without the student's written consent.
Students do not have a right of immediate access to their education records. Similarly, members of the public do not have a right of immediate access to the education records of students. Thus, you have time to consult with knowledgeable individuals at the university before granting access.
Three Important Aspects
Generally directory information concerning a student may be released to the public without the permission of the student. The university defines directory information as:
- Student's name
- Individual photograph or electronic image
- Local address and telephone number
- Permanent address and telephone number
- Email address
- Class (fr, so, jr, sr)
- Academic major
- Full-time or part-time status
- Academic and other honors
- Heights and weights of members of athletic teams
- Specific athletic achievements
- Letters of commendation
- High schools and other academic institutions attended
- Scholarships awarded
- Withdrawal date
- Degree earned and date it was conferred
- Dates of attendance
- Leadership positions in university organizations
Since the university has defined this information as directory information, it may be disclosed to a third party without the student's consent. However, students have the right to restrict disclosure of directory information. As a result, you should check with the Registrar before releasing directory information to third parties.
Personally Identifiable Information
Personally identifiable information is information contained in any record which makes a student's identity easily traceable. A student's ID number, for example, is personally identifiable information. Personally identifiable information cannot be released to third parties without the student's written consent, except under very narrow circumstances.
Personally identifiable information is not the only information contained in education records for which disclosure is restricted by FERPA. Other restricted information includes grades. The Registrar's Office becomes very concerned when student grades are posted in a public place. This should occur if, and only if, there is no possibility of individuals being identifiable from the list.
Any time you are dealing with "personally identifiable information" you must take care to protect it from third parties outside the university and you must work within the confines of legitimate educational interest within the institution.
Legitimate Educational Interest
A university employee has a "legitimate educational interest" in education records or personally identifiable information when he or she has a reasonable need to know the information in the course of performing his or her official duties at the university.
For example, if you are a faculty member you may have a reasonable need to access certain information about students who are enrolled in the courses you are teaching. If you are an academic adviser, you may have a reasonable need to access records concerning students assigned to you by your academic department.
Staff members may have a reasonable need to access information on students depending on the type of office or department they work in. Staff members who work in academic departments, for example, have different "reasonable needs" than those who work, for example, in Business and Accounting Services.
It is also important to understand that a personal relationship with an individual does not provide you with a "reasonable need to know". The reasonable need to know, or legitimate educational interest, refers to how the access relates specifically to the duties you perform in your position at the university.
These aspects of FERPA are the most important for faculty members and staff members whose jobs require them to have access to student records. More information on FERPA is available from the Registrar. If you are ever in a situation where FERPA applies and you are not sure what to do, contact the Registrar. You may also test your knowledge by taking the FERPA Tutorial in VandalWeb under the Personal Information tab.