Family Educational Rights and Privacy Acts (FERPA)

Overview

What is FERPA?

The Basic Rules for Faculty/Staff

Special "Don'ts" for Faculty

Special "Do's" for Faculty/Staff

FERPA and Parents

What Is a Student Education Record?

Directory Information

Policy

How to Make a Change to Your Privacy Level

Questions

Quiz

 

Overview

To be allowed access to student records, you must carefully review the material presented here. Maintaining confidentiality of student records is everyone's responsibility, whether you are faculty, staff, or a student. Why? Because it's the right thing to do and, more importantly, it's federal law.

The tutorial is designed to give you base-level knowledge of the rules governing release of student information. After you've carefully reviewed the tutorial, test your knowledge by taking the online FERPA quiz.

What Is FERPA?

FERPA stands for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (sometimes called the Buckley Amendment). Passed by Congress in 1974, the act grants four specific rights to the student. These rights begin as soon as the student enrolls or registers with an academic program of the university.

  1. The right to see the information that the institution is keeping on him/her.
  2. The right to seek amendment to those records and in certain cases append a statement to the record.
  3. The right to consent to disclosure of his/her records.
  4. The right to file a complaint with the FERPA Office in Washington, D.C.

The Basic Rules for Faculty/Staff

  • Student education records are considered confidential and may not be released without the written consent of the student.
  • As a faculty or staff member you have a responsibility to protect education records in your possession.
  • Some information is considered public (sometimes called "Directory Information"). Under the terms of FERPA, UC Merced has established these items as Directory Information, which may be released to those requesting it, unless the student specifically requests otherwise by completing a “nondisclosure form” with the Registrar.
  • You have access to information only for legitimate use in completion of your responsibilities as a university employee. "Need-to-know" is the basic principle.
  • If you are ever in doubt, do not release any information until you contact the Office of the Registrar at 209-228-2734 or registrar@ucmerced.edu. The Office of the Registrar is responsible for student record information.

Special "Don'ts" for Faculty

To avoid violating FERPA rules, do not at any time:

  • Post grades using any part of a student's ID number. If you want to post grades outside of your office, assign individual numbers to students at random. Only the student and the faculty member who assigned the number should know the number. The order of posting should never be alphabetic by student name.
  • Leave stacked graded papers for students to pick up — not even in sealed envelopes (unless you have the students' permission to do so). Instead, mail graded papers/exams via campus or U.S. mail in envelopes that students pre-address, pre-stamp and provide for you.
  • Circulate a printed class list for attendance purposes if it shows names and social security numbers or IDs.
  • Allow students to view, read, or record another student's social security number while in your work area.
  • Discuss student progress with anyone other than the student without the student's consent (this includes the student's parents and spouse).
  • Provide anyone with a student's schedule or help anyone other than university employees find a student on campus (Students First Center will assist).

Special "Do's" for Faculty/Staff

Make sure you protect all education records in your possession. This includes paper documents in your office such as computer printouts, class lists, display screen data and advising notes. These are practical tools that you need to do your job; however, they should be protected like you would protect a purse or wallet. You should not leave these items out in open areas, but store them out of sight, preferably in a locked cabinet or drawer when not in use.

FERPA and Parents

FERPA is a federal law intended to protect the privacy of student education records accumulated from early childhood through college. FERPA provides parents with certain rights with respect to children's education records up until entry to the university. When a student enters the university, the rights parents previously held transfer exclusively to the student. The university considers students as adults, regardless of age or financial dependence. Ordinarily, parents of UC Merced students obtain information about their students' records directly from their students. The payment of a student's tuition by the parent does not, by itself, give the parent the right of access to a student's education record.  Questions regarding these procedures may be directed to the Office of the Registrar at 209-228-2734. Additional information on FERPA and parents made available by College Parents of America can be found at http://www.collegeparents.org/ferpa.

What Is a Student Education Record?

Just about any information provided by a student to the university for use in the educational process is considered a student education record, including:

  • Personal information
  • Enrollment records
  • Grades
  • Schedules

The storage media in which you find this information does not matter. Student education record may be contained in the following media:

  • Documents in the Registrar's office
  • Computer printouts in a faculty/staff office
  • Class lists on an instructor's desktop
  • Computer display screens
  • Notes advisors have taken during an advisement session

Directory Information

UC Merced has established these items as Directory Information:

  • The student’s name, local address(es) and telephone number(s)
  • UC Merced email address
  • Major field of study
  • Class (year in school)
  • Dates of attendance
  • Enrollment status (full-time, part-time)
  • Degrees and awards received
  • Participation in officially recognized activities
  • Photographs

Parental/guardian information is confidential. It is used by the university only for notification of events, ceremonies, awards and development or in case of an emergency involving the student.

University of California Policy Related to the Disclosure of Information from Student Records

For UC systemwide policy related to student record information disclosure, please see section 130 at ucop.edu/ucophome/coordrev/ucpolicies/aos/toc.html

Policy as Written in the Catalog

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education. In accordance with the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 and campus procedures implementing the University of California Policies Applying to the Disclosure of Information from Student Records, students at the UC Merced campus of the University have the following rights:

1.   The right to inspect and review their own student records within 45 days of the date the university receives a written request for access. Students should submit their requests in writing to the University registrar, dean, or other appropriate campus official for the office having custody of the requested records. The request must identify the record(s) they wish to inspect and review. The campus 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 official receiving the request, that official shall advise the student of the correct official and redirect the request.       

2.   The right to request the amendment of their own student records if a student believes the records are inaccurate or misleading. Students should submit a written request to amend a record that they believe is inaccurate or misleading to the campus official responsible for the record, clearly identifying the portion of the record they want changed, and specifying why it is believed to be inaccurate or misleading. If the University determines that the record should not be amended as requested by the student, the university will notify the student of the decision and advise him/her of the 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.

3.   The right to consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information contained in their student records, except to the extent that law and policy authorize disclosure without consent.

One exception permitting disclosure without consent is disclosure to campus officials having a legitimate educational interest in the records. A campus official is any individual designated by the campus to perform an assigned function on behalf of the campus. Legitimate educational interest means a demonstrated need to know by officials who act in a student’s educational interest. A campus official has a “legitimate educational interest” in a record if the official is performing a task
(1) specified in his or her job description;
(2) specifically related to the official’s participation in the student’s education;
(3) specifically related to the discipline of a student; or
(4) specifically related to providing a service or benefit associated with a student or student’s family, such as health care, counseling, job placement or financial aid.

Another exception permitting disclosure without consent is Directory (or public) Information, defined as information contained in a student record that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed, unless the student has notified the Office of the Registrar that such information is to be treated as confidential with respect to him/herself.

UC Merced has established these items as Directory Information: the student’s name, local address(es) and telephone number(s); UC Merced email address; major field of study; class (year in school); dates of attendance; enrollment status (full-time, part-time); degrees and awards received; participation in officially recognized activities; and photographs. Parental/guardian information is confidential. It is used by the university only for notification of events, ceremonies, awards and development or in case of an emergency involving the student.

4.   The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by UC Merced to comply with the requirements of the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act, addressed to the Family Policy Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., Washington, D.C. 20202-4605.

How a Student Can Change His/Her Level of Privacy

A student who wants to withhold all information (including address, phone number and UC Merced email address) from the category of public information must file a form in the Office of the Registrar by the 10th day of instruction. If a student does not choose this option, this information may be released and the student’s local address, phone number and UC Merced email address will be included in the campus student directory.

Students availing themselves of this right should understand what the consequences of such action might be. For example, if all information is designated nonpublic information, the campus cannot make public any honors received by the student and cannot include the student’s name and degree earned in the campus commencement program without the student’s written consent. Similarly, if all information is designated non-public information, the student’s status as a student or any degrees earned cannot be verified for lenders or potential employers without the student’s written consent.

Questions

Questions about these rights should be referred to the Office of the Registrar at UC Merced at 209-228-2734 or by emailing registrar@ucmerced.edu.