FERPA and Student Recommendations / References

As faculty or staff members, you work closely with students and get to know their abilities, skills and character. As a result, when students are asked for letters of recommendation or to provide names of references, they will naturally seek you out to assist in this manner.

Faculty and staff members often have questions (based on FERPA) about whether they can release information about a student and/or what type of information can be released. In regard to writing letters of recommendation or serving as a personal reference for a student the following applies:

The letter or verbal reference may contain or refer to anything that comes from your personal experience with the student and is not written down or recorded at the institution.

Statements Allowed Under FERPA

The following kinds of statements would be allowed under the FERPA:

“I have found __________ to be an excellent student. The quality of their writing is exceptional and they demonstrates insight and strong critical thinking skills during class discussion and in their approach to academic work.”

“______________ has demonstrated to me that they are dependable, conscientious and punctual. This is evidenced by their attendance patterns, their classroom behavior and the interaction they have with me in the classroom.”

Statements Not Allowed Under FERPA

The statements that follow would not be allowed because they refer to information from the student’s educational record which is protected information:

“I have found ___________ to be an excellent student. They earned a grade of “A” in my class, has a cumulative GPA of 3.7 and has successfully completed 90% of the courses they have attempted.”

“________________ has demonstrated to me that they are dependable, conscientious and punctual. This is evidenced by the fact that they have only missed two of my classes this term and has never had a single incident of academic dishonesty or student discipline during their time at CNM.”

Educational Records

Information recorded and maintained at the college is considered an educational record. Any information found in the student’s educational record (or that you would expect would be part of that record) may not be shared in a letter of recommendation unless it clearly falls under the institution’s identified “directory information.”

Written Permission

You must have written permission from the student before any information can be shared which would be considered part of the student’s education record (GPA, attendance records, number of hours completed, grade received in a specific course, discipline records, etc.). If you and the student determine that it will strengthen your ability to write an effective letter by including information from the student’s educational record (or if you just want the additional peace of mind that you are in compliance with FERPA), you can request the student provide you with permission before you agree to write a letter or serve as a reference.

Sample Permission Form for Letter of Recommendation

I _________________________ (student’s printed name) give permission for Dr. Doe to write a letter of recommendation on my behalf to:

Delilah’s Delicacies Catering
905 Ridgeview Drive
Anytown, USA 11111

I give permission for Dr. Doe to include my grades, GPA, school activities, or classes I have taken in this letter. I     waive       do not waive    my right to review a copy of this letter at any time in the future.