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General FERPA Information

Please note: The following is not intended to be a legal opinion from the university but is provided as an overview of relevant provisions. Unique factual circumstances may result in legal consequences that vary from any inference suggested from this summary.

FERPA, also known as the “Buckley Amendment,” is a federal law enacted in 1974 which affords students certain rights with respect to their education records. A general overview of the law is stated below.

Some of the exceptions to disclosing personally-identifiable information are not part of the law itself but are exceptions created through other laws.

Who has to comply with FERPA?

Educational institutions (schools or other entities that provide educational services and are attended by students) and educational agencies (entities that administer schools directly linked to them) that receive funds under any program administered by the U.S. Secretary of Education.

Who has FERPA rights at the post secondary level?

A student “in attendance” (regardless of age - even if under 18) and former students.

What are these rights?

  • The right to inspect and review the student’s education records within 45 days of the day the university receives a request for access. Students should submit to the registrar, dean, head of the academic department, or other appropriate official, written requests that identify the record(s) they wish to inspect. The university official will make arrangements for access and notify the student of the time and place where the records may be inspected. If the records are not maintained by the university official to whom the request was submitted, that official shall advise the student of the correct official to whom the request should be addressed.
  • Right to seek the amendment of education records that the student believes are inaccurate or misleading. Students may ask the university to amend a record that they believe is inaccurate or misleading. They should write the university official responsible for the record, clearly identify the part of the record they want changed, and specify why it is inaccurate or misleading. If the university decides not to amend the record as requested by the student, the university will notify the student of the decision and advise the student of his or her right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment. Additional information regarding the hearing procedures will be provided to the student when notified of the right to a hearing.
  • The right to consent to disclosures of personally-identifiable information contained in the student’s education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent. One exception which permits disclosure without consent is disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests. A school official is a person employed by the university in an administrative, supervisory, academic or research, or support staff position (including law enforcement unit personnel and health staff); a person or company with whom the university has contracted (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent); a person serving on the Board of Trustees; a student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee; or a student assisting another school 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 or her professional responsibility.
  • Right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by Idaho State University to comply with the requirements of FERPA.

What are records under FERPA?

Education records are defined as records that are directly related to a student and maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution.

Education records are not: sole possession records, law enforcement unit records, employment records, medical records, or post-attendance records.

What are the requirements of FERPA for colleges?

  • Annual Model Notification of Rights (schools must notify students of their rights on an annual basis).
  • Protect students’ rights to inspect and review records.
  • Protect students’ rights to amend records.
  • Protect students’ right to limit disclosure of personally-identifiable information contained in education records.
  • Ensure that third parties do not re-disclose personally-identifiable information, except under a few circumstances.
  • Keep records of requests for and disclosures of student education records.

What are the exceptions that allow colleges to disclose "personally identifiable" information?

With prior consent of the student:

  • Directory information: Information that is generally not considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed:
    • Institution must designate information as directory information
    • Institution must provide notice to students regarding release of this information
  • To authorized representatives of the following government entities:
    • Comptroller General of the United States
    • Secretary of Education
    • U.S. Attorney General for law enforcement purposes
    • State and local educational authorities - These officials may have access to the information only if it is in connection with an audit or evaluation of federal or state-supported education programs, or for the enforcement of or compliance with federal legal requirements which relate to these programs.
  • To agents acting on behalf of the institution (e.g. Clearinghouses)
  • To schools in which the students seek or intend to enroll
  • In connection with financial aid
  • To organizations conducting studies for or on behalf of educational institutions
  • To accrediting organizations for accrediting purposes
  • To parents of a dependent student
  • To comply with a judicial order or subpoena
  • Health or safety emergency
  • To the student
  • Results of a disciplinary hearing to an alleged victim of a crime of violence
  • Final results of a disciplinary hearing against an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence or non forcible sex offense (Foley Amendment)
  • To parents/legal guardians when their children (under 21) are found to have violated the alcohol or drug policy of the institution (Warner Amendment)
  • To the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)for purposes of the Coordinated Interagency partnership regulating international students
  • “Student Recruiting Information” to military recruiters for recruiting purposes only (Solomon Amendment). Student recruiting information is name, address, telephone listing, age (or year of birth), level of education, and major
  • To the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for purposes of complying with the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997
  • To authorized representatives of the Department of Veterans Affairs for students receiving educational assistance from the agency

What Happens if a College Does Not comply with FERPA?

The Department of Education may issue a notice to cease the practice in question and could ultimately withhold funds administered by the Secretary of Education. However, as a practical matter, the Family Policy Compliance Office has never withheld funds because voluntary compliance has always been secured.