FERPA is a federal law that protects disclosure of student’s education records absent the student’s consent or the existence of some substitute for that consent. FERPA also gives students the right to inspect and review their own education records and to request amendment to those records.
What Is Protected?
FERPA protects “Education Records.” An education record is a record maintained by the institution which is directly related to a student and which contains personally identifiable information. The record may be handwritten, printed, electronic, or in some other form. Conversations and personal observations are not education records.
Examples of Education Records include registration forms, grades and transcripts, student information displayed on a computer, student schedules, class rosters, information with a student’s identification number or grades included, and financial aid information.
What is Directory Information?
Directory Information is information about a student that can generally be disclosed without the student’s permission unless the student has taken an affirmative step to “opt-out” of having his/her directory information disclosed. Directory information includes the student’s name, address, e-mail address, telephone number, classification, major, full- or part-time status, dates attended, awards, honors, and participation in recognized activities and sports. MSU students desiring to protect their directory information must consult with the Registrar’s Office to complete the “opt-out” process.
Who Can Access Education Records?
An MSU employee can review education records only to the extent that there is a “legitimate education interest” in those records.
What is a Legitimate Education Interest?
A legitimate education interest is an authorized interest or activity undertaken in the name of MSU for which access to the education record is necessary or appropriate. Education records should not be accessed for other purposes.
How Can a Student Consent to Disclosure?
A student can consent to the release of his/her education records. The consent needs to be in writing, dated, and specify the education records to be disclosed and the purpose of the disclosure. Parents cannot receive information without the student’s consent. MSU offers the Parent Portal, which allows parents – or other individuals authorized by the student – to access certain education records online. However, the Parent Portal is only available if the student has completed the FERPA waiver form for the Parent Portal.
When is Consent Not Required for Disclosure?
Under certain limited conditions, education records can be disclosed without the student’s consent. These situations are limited and should be verified prior to the release of any information. Examples of effective exceptions to the consent requirement include a lawful subpoena or court order (with notice to the student); a health and safety emergency where the disclosure of the information will mitigate or prevent an imminent threat; in connection with certain studies by educational institutions/agencies; a disclosure to an accrediting organization; a disclosure to certain offices for audit or evaluation purposes; a disclosure to a school to which the student is transferring; for some international students a disclosure to INS; and in the event a student is under 21 and has committed a disciplinary violation a disclosure to parents.
When relying on these exceptions should be carefully documented and records maintained.
Inquiries should be directed to the Registrar’s Office, the Office of General Counsel, or the Office of Compliance and Risk Management.
FERPA training is available through the Office of Compliance and Integrity and the Registrar’s Office. For additional information, please contact the Office of Compliance and Risk Management.