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Questions and Answers Regarding FERPA

For questions regarding FERPA, please contact the Director of Enrollment Services at (505) 224-3224 or the Dean of Students Office at (505) 224-4747.

What is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (also known as FERPA or the Buckley Amendment) is legislation enacted in 1974 (and significantly amended in 1992, 1994, and 1998) protecting students' rights to have access to their education records and protecting the rights to privacy of those records by limiting the transferability of records without the student's consent.

What Constitutes an "Educational Record?"

Education records are defined in FERPA as, "those records that are directly related to a student and are maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution."

Examples of student records that are entitled to FERPA protection include things such as grade books, grade reports, transcripts, and most disciplinary files. Also any other record that is created and maintained on campus — a record of progress made in tutoring for example — is protected under FERPA.

What is the Sole Possession Exception?

"Sole possession" records are exempt from student rights to have access to, or review their records. A document is a sole possession record when it is kept in the sole possession of the maker of the record. Sole possession records may not be reviewed by the student, neither should they be shared with anyone or they no longer meet the criteria as a "sole possession" record. An example of a sole possession records would be personal notes a faculty member keeps regarding a student's behavior in class. If the faculty member ultimately shows the information (e.g. with the Student Discipline Office), it would no longer be considered a sole possession record.

What Does "Protected Under FERPA Mean?"

Unless personally identifiable information about a student falls under an exception category in FERPA, it cannot be released to any third parties without signed and dated written consent from the student.

What Constitutes a "Third Party?"

Anyone, other than the student constitutes a "third party" including -

  • Parents or other relatives
  • Spouse
  • Institute employees (unless a legitimate education need to know exists)
  • Outside agencies including social agencies, law enforcement agencies (except with subpoena), state/federal agencies, all other agencies - unless identified as an official exemption.

If I use the student's ID number or social security number as the identifier, can I post grades from a test or assignment for the class?

Generally posting grades is a practice that is discouraged under FERPA. And posting by a full social security number is not allowed. However, if every effort is made to maintain the confidentiality of students during the posting process (just last four digits of SS# are used and the posting order is scrambled - so as not to be alphabetical, seating order, or some other system that students could easily deduce), then the practice would be allowed under FERPA. Learn more: FERPA General Information | FERPA.

Can I leave unclaimed papers or assignments out for students to pick up?

No, you should never leave a student's academic work out where students could access other students' work and/or grades. The only exception to this would be if you had the student's written permission to do so. This means if you wanted to do this for a class, you would need written permission from every student in that class.

What if a student asks me to write a letter of recommendation for them or to serve as a reference for them?

Generally, you may share information that are your personal impressions of the student, but may not share information that is part of their educational record (like grades, gpa, or attendance records).

Also, please refer to the additional information provided as a link on this site for expanded discussion of this issue.

What if a student has been ill or misses class, can I send their graded class work to them through a friend in class?

No, you may not release their work or any other educational record unless you have written consent from the student to do so.

If a parent, spouse or legal authority contacts me with questions about a student, what should I do?

You should not disclose any information that would be considered part of the student's educational record to anyone. Encourage the individual seeking the information to communicate directly with the student for information. Many parents feel if they are paying for the education, they have the right to know. Although there are some exceptions, this is generally not true under FERPA. In addition, as a faculty member it is not your responsibility to determine if a particular situation constitutes a FERPA exception. If someone is persistent in their request, you may refer them to the Records Office or Dean of Students Office.

If a student in my class is younger than 18, do I have the right to disclose information to the parent(s)?

Under FERPA, all rights of protection are transferred to the student when he or she, "reaches 18 years of age or attends an institution of post-secondary education." In other words, the age of the student does not influence your decision to release information.