Our intention with this page is to clearly explain the "Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as Amended," known generally as "FERPA" or "The Buckley Amendment." This information references directly the FERPA page on ed.gov at the following link:
What is FERPA?
FERPA is the United States federal law that protects student records privacy review and disclosure rights. This is a Federal law that is administered by the Family Policy Compliance Office (Office) in the U.S. Department of Education (Department). The law guarantees these rights for both current and former Andrews University students. To help you understand FERPA and what it means to you, this page addresses a variety of records privacy questions.
The term "education records" is defined as those records that contain information directly related to a student and which are maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution. At Andrews University your student records are filed and maintained by the Office of Academic Records.
What are some of the basic guidelines?
As a student, your educational records are considered confidential. Under most circumstances your records will not be released without your written and signed consent. As an Andrews University student, you must sign a release form in order for your information to be released to your parents.
Once a student reaches 18 years of age or attends a postsecondary institution, he or she becomes an "eligible student," and all rights formerly given to parents under FERPA transfer to the student. The eligible student has the following rights:
- the right to have access to his or her education records
- the right to seek to have the records amended
- the right to have control over the disclosure of personally identifiable information from the records (except in certain circumstances specified in the FERPA regulations, some of which are discussed below)
- the right to file a complaint with the Department.
FERPA generally prohibits the improper disclosure of personally identifiable information derived from education records. Thus, information that an official obtained through personal knowledge or observation, or has heard orally from others, is not protected under FERPA. This remains applicable even if education records exist which contain that information, unless the official had an official role in making a determination that generated a protected education record.
Access to Education Records
Under FERPA, a school must provide an eligible student with an opportunity to inspect and review his or her education records within 45 days following its receipt of a request. A school is required to provide an eligible student with copies of education records, or make other arrangements, if a failure to do so would effectively prevent the student from obtaining access to the records. A case in point would be a situation in which the student does not live within commuting distance of the school.
A school is not generally required by FERPA to provide an eligible student with access to academic calendars, course syllabi, or general notices such as announcements of specific events or extra-curricular activities. That type of information is not generally directly related to an individual student and, therefore, does not meet the definition of an education record.
Under FERPA, a school is not required to provide information that is not maintained or to create education records in response to an eligible student's request. Accordingly, a school is not required to provide an eligible student with updates on his or her progress in a course (including grade reports) or in school unless such information already exists in the form of an education record.
Amendment of Education Records
Under FERPA, an eligible student has the right to request that inaccurate or misleading information in his or her education records be amended. While a school is not required to amend education records in accordance with an eligible student's request, the school is required to consider the request. If the school decides not to amend a record in accordance with an eligible student's request, the school must inform the student of his or her right to a hearing on the matter. If, as a result of the hearing, the school still decides not to amend the record, the eligible student has the right to insert a statement in the record setting forth his or her views. That statement must remain with the contested part of the eligible student's record for as long as the record is maintained.
However, while the FERPA amendment procedure may be used to challenge facts that are inaccurately recorded, it may NOT be used to challenge a grade, an opinion, or a substantive decision made by a school about an eligible student.
FERPA was intended to require only that schools conform to fair recordkeeping practices and not to override the accepted standards and procedures for making academic assessments, disciplinary rulings, or placement determinations. Thus, while FERPA affords eligible students the right to seek to amend education records which contain inaccurate information, this right cannot be used to challenge a grade or an individual's opinion, or a substantive decision made by a school about a student. Additionally, if FERPA's amendment procedures are not applicable to an eligible student's request for amendment of education records, the school is not required under FERPA to hold a hearing on the matter.
Disclosure of Personally Identifiable Information
Personally identifiable information is defined as information such as name, address, social security number, or personal characteristics which would make the student's identity traceable.
FERPA gives institutions the right to define certain pieces of information as "directory information," or information for which the institution does not need the student's consent to release it. Andrews University has classified the following as directory information: name, local address, local phone number, major field of study, year in college, e-mail address, dates of attendance, degrees or certificates and dates they were awarded, scholarships, honors received and awards received.
Under FERPA, a school may not generally disclose personally identifiable information from an eligible student's education records to a third party unless the eligible student has provided written consent. However, there are a number of exceptions to FERPA's prohibition against non-consensual disclosure of personally identifiable information from education records. Under these exceptions, schools are permitted to disclose personally identifiable information from education records without consent, though they are not required to do so.
General Information Regarding These Exceptions
- One of the exceptions to the prior written consent requirement in FERPA allows "school officials," including teachers, within a school to obtain access to personally identifiable information contained in education records provided the school has determined that they have "legitimate educational interest" in the information. Although the term "school official" is not defined in the statute or regulations, this Office generally interprets the term to include parties such as: professors; instructors; administrators; health staff; counselors; attorneys; clerical staff; trustees; members of committees and disciplinary boards; and a contractor, volunteer or other party to whom the school has outsourced institutional services or functions.
A school must inform eligible students of how it defines the terms "school official" and "legitimate educational interest" in its annual notification of FERPA rights. A school official generally has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility. Andrews University faculty members and advisors are classified as holding "legitimate educational interest."
Another exception permits a school to disclose personally identifiable information from an eligible student's education records, without consent, to another school in which the student seeks or intends to enroll. The sending school may make the disclosure if it has included in its annual notification of rights a statement that it forwards education records in such circumstances. Otherwise, the sending school must make a reasonable attempt to notify the student in advance of making the disclosure, unless the student has initiated the disclosure.
- The school must also provide an eligible student with a copy of the records that were released if requested by the student.
FERPA also permits a school to disclose personally identifiable information from education records without consent when the disclosure is in connection with financial aid for which the student has applied or which the student has received, if the information is necessary for such purposes as to: determine the eligibility for the aid; determine the amount of the aid; determine the conditions for the aid; and/or enforce the terms and conditions of the aid.
- With respect to this exception, the term "financial aid" means payment of funds provided to an individual (or payment in kind of tangible or intangible property to the individual) that is conditioned on the individual's attendance at a school.
Another exception permits a school to disclose personally identifiable information from education records without consent when the disclosure is to the parents of a "dependent student" as that term is defined in Section 152 of the Internal Revenue Code.
- Generally, if either parent has claimed the student as a dependent on the parent's most recent year's income tax statement, the school may non-consensually disclose the eligible student's education records to both parents under this exception.
Postsecondary institutions may also disclose personally identifiable information from education records, without consent, to appropriate parties, including parents of an eligible student, in connection with a health or safety emergency.
- Under this provision, colleges and universities may notify parents when there is a health or safety emergency involving their son or daughter, even if the parents do not claim the student as a dependent.
What if my mom or dad calls the Records office to ask about me, such as with a transcript request?
If a student is under the age of 18, parents are permitted to receive information as defined by FERPA. Under the stipulations of FERPA, the Office of Academic Records is not permitted to disclose information with parents about students age 18 or older unless the student has submitted the FERPA release of information form. Upon calling Academic Records with a question about their student, our staff will check iVue for confirmation that the form has been submitted. Please note that this does not mean, as according to the disclosure exceptions listed above, that we are obligated to disclose all information with any third party who has permission but may only release general information.
What if my parent wants to find out my grades for me?
Grades are only accessible within the student's Vault account or by directly contacting the instructor. The Office of Academic Records does not give out personal information over the phone because it is impossible to authenticate identity over the phone. Students are advised to directly contact their professor if they have questions about their grade, or if the grade has not been submitted. Student-parent communication is the best way for parents to find out the grades of their student.
Do my parents have the right to see my educational records if they are paying the bill?
Under FERPA the rights of the parents to review and amend educational records transfer to the student once they turn 18 years old. Although the rights under FERPA have now transferred to you, a school may disclose information from an “eligible student’s” education records to your parents, without your consent, if your parents claimed you as a dependent for tax purposes in the last tax year. Neither the age of the student nor the parent’s status as a custodial parent is relevant. If you are claimed as a dependent by either of your parents for tax purposes, then either parent may have access under this provision.