FERPA FAQ

Also known as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act or the Buckley Amendment, FERPA is a federal law that was enacted in 1974 to protect the privacy of student educational records.  All institutions that receive federal funding must comply with FERPA. 

If you are a student at AUM it is important that you understand your rights under FERPA.  If you are a parent of an AUM student, you will need tare to understand how the law changes once your child enters a post-secondary institution such as AUM.  And, if you are an employee of AUM who has access to student educational records, you need to know the parameters of FERPA regulations and your obligations to comply with FERPA and protect those educational records according to the law.

FERPA grants four basic rights to students regarding their educational records.  These are:  

  • The right to control disclosure of their educational records (with some exceptions)
  • The right to review their educational records
  • The right to request that amendments be made to an educational record if believed to be inaccurate or misleading
  • The right to be notified of their FERPA rights at least annually
  • The right to file a complaint with the Family Policy Compliance Office of the U.S. Department of Education regarding non-compliance of FERPA concern

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 enrolled in at least one course. A student who accepted an admission offer but did not enroll in at least one course, or a newly admitted student who canceled his/her registration either before or after the semester begins, is not covered by FERPA.

In primary and secondary educational institutions (i.e. K-12), FERPA rights belong to the parent. However, when the student reaches the age of 18 or begins to attend a post-secondary institution, regardless of age, all FERPA rights transfer to the student. In other words, at AUM, FERPA rights belong to the student, not the parents.

Educational records are defined as records, documents, files and other materials that contain information that is directly related to a student and maintained by an employee of AUM (with some exceptions) or by a person or entity acting for the University.  Educational records can take many forms, including paper and electronic and include things like: grades, class lists, student’s course schedules, disciplinary records, student financial records, and payroll records for employees who are employed as a direct result of their status as students (e.g., college work study, graduate assistants).

Yes.  The following records are not included in the definition of ‘educational record’ under the law and are thus not protected under FERPA:

  • University law enforcement records
  • Medical and mental health records used only for the treatment of the student
  • Alumni records created after the student is no longer enrolled
  • Records kept in the “sole possession” of the staff or faculty member who created it and are used primarily as 'memory joggers' and are not shared with another person.  Once the record is shared with another person it becomes part of the student's educational record under FERPA.
  • The right to file a complaint with the Family Policy Compliance Office of the U.S. Department of Education regarding non-compliance of FERPA concern
  • A faculty or staff member’s personal observations of a student
  • Peer graded papers or exams prior to the grade being recorded in the instructor’s grade book

This means that any educational record protected by FERPA can only be disclosed with the student’s prior writtenconsent.  This prior written consent should:

  • Specify the record(s) that can be released
  • Specify the part(ies) to whom the disclosure is granted, including timeframe and purpose
  • Be signed and dated by the student

It depends.  Students enrolled in ‘on campus’ classes are required to complete the “Student Consent for Access to Educational Records” form available at the Registrar’s Office, Taylor Center, Suite 114. 

Distance Education students enrolled in online programs can request this form be sent to them by postal mail or email.  However, AUM will only accept requests made through the student’s AUM email address as an approved electronic signature.  Since the student must log in to AUM’s secure email system using his/her AUM access account, the appropriate form submitted from the student’s @aum.edu email address satisfies FERPA’s written consent requirement.  However, because security measures for other email systems are not as secure, emails from other accounts will not qualify as written consent.  AUM does reserve the right to request authentication information to confirm student’s identity.

Yes. FERPA does allow some exceptions to the written consent rule.  These exceptions allow disclosure without consent:

  • If the information being released is considered ‘Directory Information” by FERPA and AUM and the student has not requested that a confidentiality flag be placed on his or her record
  • To University officials (including third parties under contract with AUM) with legitimate 
    educational interests
  • To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena   
  • To appropriate parties in order to protect the health and safety of the student or other individuals in emergencies with the understanding that only information essential to the emergency situation will be released, that information will be released only to a party who would be in a position to deal with the emergency, and that the student will be notified insofar as possible of the information released, the purpose for the release, and to whom the information was released.  No personal information on a student will be released without a statement from the university to the party receiving the information that no third party is to have access to such information without the written consent of the student.
  • To parents of students under 21 years of age in cases of drug or alcohol violations
  • To officials at another college or university where the student seeks or intends to enroll
  • To officials at another educational institution in which the student is enrolled. For example, AUM may release academic records for a "dual enrollment" high school student.
  • To the provider or creator of a record to verify the validity of the record (e.g. in cases of    suspected fraud)
  • To officials if the disclosure is in connection with financial aid for which the student has 
    applied or which the student has received
  • To authorized representatives of the U.S. Comptroller General, the U.S. Attorney General, the U.S. Secretary of Education, or State and local educational authorities, such as a State-supported education programs.  Disclosures may be made, in connection with an audit or evaluation, or enforcement or compliance activity on their behalf.
  • To organizations conducting research studies on behalf of AUM provided that there is a written, contractual agreement between the University and the research organization. In addition, in connection with Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems, State Authorities may collect, compile, permanently retain, and share student education records without prior consent of the student, and they may track student participation in education and other programs by linking such information to other personal information obtained from other Federal or State data sources, including workforce development, unemployment insurance, child welfare, juvenile justice, military service, and migrant student records systems.

Directory information is data contained in a student’s educational record that FERPA considers not harmful or an invasion of privacy if provide to a third party. AUM has designated the following information as “directory information” which may be disclosed without the student’s permission:

  • Student’s Name (including Preferred Name)
  • Address (Local and Permanent)
  • Telephone Listing
  • Email Address
  • Photograph, video or other electronic images
  • Date of birth
  • Major(s)/Degree Program(s)
  • Dates of Attendance
  • Enrollment status (e.g. undergraduate or graduate, full-time or part-time)
  • Participation in officially recognized activities and sports 
  • Weight and height of members of athletic teams
  • Degree(s) conferred (including dates), Honors and Awards (including Dean’s List)
  • Most recent educational agency or institution attended

Although AUM is given permission under FERPA to release “Directory Information” it is University policy not to release such data for commercial purposes.

Yes. FERPA affords the right to students to request non-disclosure of “directory information” to third parties.  To prevent AUM from disclosing any "directory information" to third parties, students must complete the “Request to Opt Out of Directory Information” form available from the Registrar’s Office, Suite 114, Taylor Center.  Such requests may be filed at any time. The request to prevent disclosure of "directory information" will remain in effect permanently, including after departure from AUM, unless subsequently changed by the student. At the time of graduation, students will be given an opportunity to release such information hold.  Any student requesting total confidentiality should be aware that this will prevent acknowledgment of his or her enrollment and the release of any and all “directory information” by AUM to potentially interested third parties such as parents, spouses, children, other family members, insurance companies, and potential employers.

No. The only required disclosure of educational records is to the student. The decision to disclose “directory information” to third parties is at the discretion of the institution.  AUM takes a conservative stand on releasing “directory information” to third parties.

"University officials" are University employees with general or specific responsibility for promoting the educational objectives of the University or third parties under contract with the University to provide professional, business and similar administrative services related to the University's educational mission. Individuals whose responsibilities place them within this category include instructors, current and former; faculty advisers; admissions counselors; academic advisers; counselors; employment placement personnel; deans, department chairpersons, directors, and other administrative officials responsible for some part of the academic enterprise or one of the supporting activities; university police personnel; health staff; development officers; staff in Alumni Relations; administrative and faculty sponsors of officially recognized clubs, organizations, etc.; members, including students and alumni, of official AUM committees; staff personnel (including students) employed to assist university officials in discharging professional responsibilities; members of the Board of Trustees, and persons or entities under contract to the University to provide a specific task or service related to the University's educational mission.

FERPA permits University employees to have access to student education records in which they have "legitimate educational interest." Such access does not require prior written consent of the student. Essentially, legitimate educational interest is necessary for employees to carry out their responsibilities in support of AUM’s educational mission. It can be considered as a "need to know" that is essential to carrying out your job responsibilities related to education.  It is important to understand several points related to "legitimate educational interest":  

Curiosity is not a legitimate educational interest. Simply because an employee has access to Banner and is able to view the record of a neighbor's son, does not mean that she or he has a legitimate educational interest in his grades and cumulative GPA.  A “University Official’s” “need to know must be related to his or her job responsibilities in support of the university’s educational mission. In other words, records should be used only in the context of official business in conjunction with the educational success of the student.

The Solomon Amendment was adopted in 1996 and governs all institutions of higher education receiving Federal grants and contracts. It allows federal funding to be cut if military recruiters are prohibited from recruiting on campus or are prohibited from accessing student directory information for recruiting purposes.

Covered student directory information (“student recruiting information”) is defined as name, address, telephone listing, age or year of birth, academic major and level of education (e.g. freshman, sophomore, etc. or degree awarded). Where there is a conflict between the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), the Solomon Amendment would supersede FERPA. A student who has requested non-disclosure of directory information to any party under FERPA remains protected. The language of the Solomon Amendment and its recodification still require that, “Institutions must take care, however, to release only that information specifically required under the Acts and this rule.”

Institutions must respond to each of the separate branches of the military services, but only need to do so once per academic semester to each branch. Recruiters must abide by restrictions placed on all other recruiting employers including reasonable times and places for on-campus recruiting and copying charges.

Yes. A student can file a written complaint with the Secretary of the United States Department of Education. The Secretary of Education has full power and standing to enforce FERPA. The Secretary has designated the below address as the location to file complaints:

                                             Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO)
                                                 U.S. Department of Education
                                                   400 Maryland Avenue, SW
                                                    Washington, D.C. 20202
A complaint must be filed within 180 days of its occurrence, and must state facts demonstrating the violation.

Additional information on FERPA may be found at the website of the U.S. Department of Education.