FERPA Quick Guide

Download the FERPA: Quick Guide for Faculty and Staff.

Adopted from Pennsylvania State University FERPA website

Note: The Dean of Students serves as UWL’s FERPA liaison and questions or concerns should be directed to the Office of Student Life.

UW-La Crosse FERPA Policy

What is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)? expanding section

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.

What are education records? expanding section

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.
What information can be released about the student? (Disclosure of Education Records Policy) expanding section

Disclosure of Education Records Policy

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.

 

How does FERPA apply to students? expanding section

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 give permission for UWL to discuss their educational record with a parent/guest by creating a FERPA Secure PIN.

More information about the FERPA Secure PIN 

How does FERPA apply to parents? expanding section

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 create a FERPA secure PIN for third parties, including parents. The PIN allows parents to contact UWL on the behalf of the student. By creating a PIN for a specific third party, the students give permission for UWL to discuss financial records, academic records, or both with the person who has the PIN. Please note that campus offices are not required to release the student's personal information to a person providing the FERPA Secure PIN, but they may do so.

  • Finances: May discuss account charges and payments, financial aid disbursements, and enrollment status as it relates to your financial obligations to UWL.
  • Academic Records, with the exception of current schedule of classes and all course grades: May discuss application status, placement information, transcript status, test score status, enrollment, progress toward degree, academic standing, etc.

The PIN does not grant access the student's account in WINGS, student grades, or their current class schedule. The PIN does not grant access to the holder to sign documents or forms on behalf of the student.

When contacting UWL, parents should present their own name, the student's name, and the FERPA Secure PIN. The UWL office/department will verify that the student has given permission to discuss their educational record with the person holding the FERPA Secure PIN. 

Information on how to pay a student's bill can be found on the Cashier's Payment Options page. Parents can pay the bill without logging into WINGS.

If I’m a student, do I need to do anything to protect my information? (Directory Information Policy) expanding section

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.

Directory Information Policy

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:

  • Name(s)
  • Local and home addresses
  • Local and home telephone numbers
  • UWL email address
  • School/college
  • 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 some or all of their directory information, some university processes may be affected:

  • Student name/address may be excluded from the UWL online directory.
  • Verification of enrollment, graduation, or degrees awarded may not be provided to third parties, including potential employers and insurance companies.
  • Student name may not appear in the commencement program.
  • Dean’s List and graduation notifications may not be sent to local newspapers.

In addition to student data elements, UWL has designated photographs and video that are taken of students on campus and at university-sponsored activities as information that may appear in university publications, brochures, websites, social media, etc., without the written consent of students.

Our class sessions may be audio-visually recorded for students in the class to refer back and for enrolled students who are unable to attend live. Students who participate with their camera engaged or utilize a profile image are agreeing to have their video or image recorded. Likewise, students who un-mute during class and participate orally are agreeing to have their voices recorded.

FERPA Secure PIN expanding section

Student Identity Verification

Student records are confidential and protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). To comply with FERPA, students must verify their identity when contacting UWL offices and discussing personal and confidential information. Students contacting UWL offices remotely, such as through a phone call, must provide their student ID number and another piece of identifiable information, such as the six-digit FERPA Secure PIN available in their WINGS Student Center. UWL encourages students to create a FERPA Secure PIN to help protect their student records from being released to the wrong person.  

Current students may log into their WINGS Student Center, under the UW-La Crosse menu on the left, and set a FERPA Secure PIN.

This FERPA Secure PIN can be changed at any time. Students should NOT share their personal FERPA Secure PIN with anyone. This is used to authenticate the student's own identity

Granting Permission to Release Student Records

UWL staff cannot release student records and financial account information to a parent, guardian, sponsor, or third-party designee without the student's prior formal consent. However, current students may create a FERPA secure PIN to give to a third party, such as parents or guardians, as permission to UWL staff to release the details of the educational record to the person given the PIN.

When creating and assigning the PIN, the student decides whether one or both of these areas may be discussed with the parent or third party designee.

  • Finances: May discuss account charges and payments, financial aid disbursements, and enrollment status as it relates to your financial obligations to UWL.
  • Academic Records, with the exception of current schedule of classes and all course grades: May discuss application status, placement information, transcript status, test score status, enrollment, progress toward degree, academic standing, etc.

The FERPA Secure PIN does not grant access to:

  • Course grades and current schedule of classes
  • The holder party to sign documents or make decisions/changes on a student behalf

Please note that campus offices are not required to release the student's personal information to a person providing the FERPA Secure PIN, but they may do so. This FERPA Secure PIN system protects the student's records and complies with the federal privacy law governing student records, FERPA.  

The guest must be given the FERPA Secure PIN generated for them before they can contact campus offices for personal academic or financial information. If a student provides a third party with a FERPA Secure PIN and later decides that they want to end that person's access, current students can change the FERPA Secure PIN at any time by going to the FERPA Secure PIN page in their WINGS Student Center and updating or removing the FERPA Secure PIN. Students should be careful with whom they share information as they are choosing to release confidential information about their personal records.

Directory Information Restrictions

Students may restrict their directory information in WINGS by going to their privacy settings under "Personal Information" in the WINGS Student Center. 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. Restricting directory information prevents offices from releasing it to third parties, with the exception of parties that provide the FERPA Secure PIN. If the student gives a FERPA Secure PIN to a parent or other third party, that permission overrides the directory information restrictions. However, please remember that UWL offices are not required to release this information to the person providing the FERPA Secure PIN, but may do so.

Tuition payments

Students may provide parents or guests a way to pay tuition through CashNet without access to WINGS. Information on how to create guest access to CashNet can be found on the Cashier's site about Payment Options.

Former students

Former students (graduated or have not attended for a full semester or more) do not have access to WINGS and therefore cannot use the FERPA Secure PIN as identify verification. Former students that call a UWL office should be prepared to supply their student ID number and/or other personal information to prove their identity.