The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a privacy law that both students and their parents must understand. Protecting sensitive information contained in student records is FERPA law’s primary purpose, and once students reach the age of 18 or begin attending college, they will have full rights to their records.
Information Covered by FERPA
The most important thing for students to understand about FERPA is what information it protects. Primarily, FERPA restricts access to your educational records, including course schedules, your grades, your class list, and your disciplinary records.
Of course, there are some exceptions to these rules. For instance, if you are under the age of 21 and are disciplined for a drug or alcohol violation, your school could notify your parents without violating FERPA law. Universities and colleges also have the right to release directory information without obtaining a student’s consent, unless the student has specifically requested that the information not be released.
FERPA also covers a student’s financial aid information. With limited exceptions, a university’s financial aid office cannot release information about students without their consent. Some of this information includes:
- A student’s eligibility for aid and how much aid he or she has received.
- Payroll records for work-study programs.
- Applications for financial aid.
Student and Parent Rights Under FERPA
When students are under the age of 18, FERPA rights belong to their parents. Once students turn 18 or start attending a postsecondary institution, FERPA rights transfer to them, and parents no longer have rights to their children’s educational record. If parents claim their child as a dependent on their tax return, a school might still disclose information to the parent, although disclosure is not required.
As a student, you have a variety of rights under FERPA that you must understand. First and foremost, this law entitles you to review your educational record whenever you wish. You can also request to amend portions of your record that are misleading or inaccurate.
Second, you have the right to prevent or allow disclosure of your education records. Your college or university cannot disclose your records without your written consent, which can either be in paper form or electronic. Be aware, however, that some records are excluded from education records, such as:
- Health and medical records.
- Law enforcement records.
- Personal observations about the student and peer-reviewed papers that have not yet been recorded in a grade book.
If you want to allow someone else to review your records, your written consent must state which records are to be released, who can receive them, and the purpose of the disclosure. You also must include your signature. Finally, FERPA allows you to file a complaint against your educational institution if it is not complying with this law.
Thanks to FERPA, protecting your privacy as a student is easy. You won’t have to worry about someone accessing your personal information without your permission, and you will always be able to access your records.