FERPA for Parents

What is FERPA and why should I care?

  • FERPA is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and is a federal law that was enacted in 1974.  FERPA protects the privacy of student educational records.  All educational institutions that receive federal funding must comply with FERPA.
  • At primary through secondary institutions (K-12) the rights to a student’s education records lie with the parents.  When a student turns 18 years of age, or regardless of age, enters a post-secondary institution, such as AUM, the rights to educational records transfer to the student.
  • As a parent, you need to understand how the law changes once your child enrolls at a post-secondary institution.  In essence, he or she becomes the "owner" of his or her educational records.

What rights are granted to students by FERPA?

  • The right to inspect and review their own educational records.
  • The right to request amendments to be made to their educational records, if necessary.
  • The right to have some control concerning what information is disclosed from their educational records.
  • The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Dept. of Education if they feel their rights have been violated.
  • The right to suppress disclosure of directory information to outside agencies and third parties.

What does the law mean when it says that students have the right to control disclosure of their education records?

  • It means that a student’s education records may be disclosed only with the student’s prior written consent.  The prior written consent must:
    • Specify the record(s) to be released
    • State the purpose of the disclosure
    • Identify the party(ies) to whom disclosure may be made
    • Be signed and dated by the student

When do students’ FERPA rights begin?

  • According to the law, a person becomes a student for purposes of FERPA when they are “in attendance" at an institution.  This includes attendance in person or remotely by videoconference, satellite, Internet, or other electronic and telecommunications technologies.
  • At AUM, we define a student as someone currently or previously enrolled in any academic offering of the University.  This does not include prospective students or applicants to any academic program of the University.
  • According to AUM policy, FERPA becomes effective on the first day of classes for those newly admitted students who have scheduled at least one course.  A student who accepted an admission offer but did not schedule a least one class or a newly admitted student who canceled his or her registration either before or after the semester begins, is not considered "in attendance" and therefore, not covered by FERPA.

What are education records under FERPA?

  • Education records are defined as records, files, documents, and other materials that contain information directly related to a student and are maintained by AUM or by a person acting for the University.  Education records take many forms, including paper, and electronic.
  • Education records include (but are not limited to):
    • Grades
    • Class lists
    • Student course schedules
    • Disciplinary records
    • Student financial records
    • Payroll records for employees who are employed as a direct result of their status as students (e.g., work study, student workers, graduate assistants)

What educational records are not protected under FERPA?

  • Admissions files of prospective students who do not matriculate.  (Admissions files become protected once the student is considered "in attendance" by the University.)
  • University law enforcement records
  • “Sole possession” records made by faculty and staff for their own use as a reference or memory aids and not shared with anyone else
  • Alumni records created after the student leaves the University
  • Personal observations
  • Peer graded papers and exams prior to the grade being recorded in the instructor’s grade book
  • Employment records unless employment is contingent upon attendance, such as teaching assistants or work study students

What information can be released under FERPA without student consent?

  • Directory information
  • Information that the student has given written consent to release
  • Information needed by AUM employees who have a legitimate educational interest
  • Information needed by certain government agencies
  • Information needed in the case of emergencies or judicial orders or subpoenas
  • Information released to parents in cases where students have been found responsible for violating a law or University policy related to drug and/or alcohol abuse

What is “Directory Information”?

  • It is information that can be released without the student’s written consent, unless the student opts out of disclosure.
  • It is information FERPA has deemed as not harmful or an invasion of privacy.
  • Each institution, to some extent, can determine what information is classified as directory information.
  • At AUM, directory information includes:  name; address; email address;  phone number; dates of attendance, classification, and curriculum; degree (s) conferred, awards and honors received; participation in officially recognized activities or sports; weight/height of a member of an athletic team; photographs, videos or other electronic images; most recent educational agency or institution attended.

How can parents access student information contained in educational records?

  • In higher education, the student holds FERPA rights, not the parent or guardian.
  • Parents can obtain directory information unless the student has opted out of disclosure.
  • Parents can obtain non-directory information (e.g. grades, GPA, financial aid or student account information) if the student is a legal dependent as shown on their most recent tax return (a copy must be filed with the Registrar).
  • Parents may obtain non-directory information if the student signs a consent form releasing information to them. This form can be obtained from the Registrar's Office.  A signed consent form does not constitute a "power of attorney" empowering parents to act on behalf of the student.

Where can I obtain additional information about FERPA?

For more information about FERPA contact the Registrar’s Office or write to the Family Policy Compliance Office. 

Auburn Montgomery                                                  Family Policy Compliance Office
Registrar’s Office                                                       U.S. Department of Education
114 Taylor Center                                                       400 Maryland Ave., SW
7400 East Drive                                                         Washington D.C. 20202-4605
Montgomery, AL 36117
Email: to records@aum.edu
Phone: 334-244-3125