What is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.
FERPA identifies the rights of students and their families with respect to student educational records kept by institutions.
How does FERPA apply to students?
Some of the rights of students under FERPA include:
- Right to inspect and review education records.
- Right to provide guidelines for the correction of inaccurate or misleading information in the record through informal and formal hearings.
- Right to file complaints with the FERPA Office concerning alleged failures by the University to comply with the Act.
Under the right to inspect and review their education records, students may not view:
- Parent’s financial records, even though the student may have provided them.
- Letters of recommendation that the student has waived the right to access.
- Portions of records that pertain to other students.
- Records connected with an application to attend any component of UWL if that application was denied.
It is important to note that the FERPA rights transfer from the parent to the student when the student turns 18 or when the student begins attending a postsecondary institution, regardless of age. Students can grant guest access to specific individuals to their WINGS (student information) accounts.
What are education records?
Education records are any record maintained by the university which is directly related to the student, such as individually identifiable transcript information.
Some exceptions include:
- “Sole possession” records made by faculty and staff for their own use as reference and not shared with others
- Personal observations
- Employment records if the employment is not contingent on the fact that the employee is a student, and the record is used only in relationship to that individual’s employment.
- Police services records if the record is maintained solely for law enforcement purposes and revealed only to law enforcement agencies of the same jurisdiction.
- Health Center records if the records relate only to treatment of the student.
- Alumni records that contain information about a student after the student is no longer in attendance at the University and that do not relate to the person as a student.
How does FERPA apply to parents?
When the student reaches the age of 18 or begins attending a postsecondary institution, regardless of age, FERPA rights transfer from the parent to the student.
Students may grant access to their WINGS account to “guest users,” including parents. Students can control what the guest users see and do, including viewing class schedules and grades and viewing financial aid information and pay bills. The process for doing so is linked here.
What information can be released about the student?(Disclosure of Education Records)
UW-La Crosse will disclose information from a student’s education records only with the written consent of the student, except:
1. To school officials who have a legitimate educational interest in the records.
A school official is:
- A person employed by UW-La Crosse in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research, support staff position, or a student assisting an employee of the university.
- A person employed by or under contract to the University to perform a special task, such as the attorney or auditor.
- A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official is:
- Performing a task that is specified in his or her position description or by a contract agreement.
- Performing a task related to a student’s education.
- Performing a task related to the discipline of a student.
- Conducting research that benefits students and/or the University
(Note: A college or university is required to specify the criteria for school officials and for legitimate educational interests.)
2. To certain officials of the U. S. Department of Education, the Comptroller General, and state and local educational authorities, in connection with certain state or federally supported education programs.
3. To organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the university.
4. To accrediting organizations to carry out their functions.
5. To comply with a judicial order or a lawfully issued subpoena.
6. To appropriate parties in a health or safety emergency.
7. To an alleged victim of any crime of violence the results of any institutional disciplinary proceeding against the alleged perpetrator of that crime with respect to that crime.
If I’m a student, do I need to do anything to protect my information?
Students are notified annually of their rights under FERPA through an email from the Office of Student Life; in the academic catalog; and in the student handbook.
Students have the right to restrict their directory information under FERPA. Directory information is that information that is designated as public by the University, and it can be released by the institution for any purpose, at its discretion.
Students can use WINGS to restrict their directory information at any point. The student can also decide which elements of directory information to restrict.
The following data elements are considered directory information at UWL:
- Telephone numbers
- UWL email address
- Full-time or part-time enrollment
- Academic level (first year, sophomore, junior, senior)
- Previous institution(s) attended
- Past and present participation in officially recognized sports and activities
- Physical factors (height, weight for athletes)
- Major/minor field of study
- Awards and honors (such as Dean’s List)
- Expected graduation date
- Degree(s) conferred
- Date of degree conferral
If the student chooses to restrict their directory information, there are some considerations:
- Student name/address is excluded from the UWL online directory.
- Verification of enrollment, graduation, or degrees awarded will not be provided to third parties, including potential employers and insurance companies.
- Student name will not appear in the commencement program.
- Dean’s List notifications will not be sent to local newspapers.
In addition to student data elements, UWL has designated photographs and images that are taken of students on campus and at university-sponsored activities as information that may appear in university publications, brochures, websites, etc., without the written consent of students.
**ADOPTED FROM PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY FERPA WEBSITE**