Student Rights and Responsibilities: FERPA
What is FERPA?
FERPA is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (Public Law 93-389 Subsctn. 513,88 Stat. 571;29 U.S.C. 1232q.) Passed by Congress, the Act grants five specific rights to students:
- the right to see the information that the institution is keeping on the student
- the right to seek amendment to those records and in certain cases append a statement to the record
- the right to consent to disclosure of his/her records
- the right to file a complaint with the United States Department of Education
- the right to participate in a hearing if the request to amend is denied
Student Records Access
Your home college is responsible for maintaining the security of your academic records. Under FERPA, the information in your file may only be released under specific conditions As a current or former student, you have complete access to your records in compliance with requirements under FERPA. For more information about accessing your academic records in accordance FERPA, please contact your home college (see home college table on page 20 of this handbook).
FERPA Frequently Asked Questions
What does FERPA stand for?
FERPA is the “Family Education Rights and Privacy Act”, a United States law. FERPA protects the “Education Record”. All employees of the Colorado Community College System (CCCS) are required to comply with FERPA.
When do my FERPA rights begin and end?
FERPA rights begin when you register and attend a class. Then, protection of the “Education Record” is for life UNLESS you give specific consent to disclose part or all of the educational record. Note that rights DO NOT begin when an admissions application is received, formal admission is granted, or a first payment is made.
What is my “Education Record”?
The “Education Record” includes all personally identifiable information maintained by a college in association with classes or other forms of attendance at the Institution. The “Education Record” contents are classified as “Directory” or “Non-Directory information.”
What is “Directory” information and who can access it?
At CCCS Institutions, “Directory” information includes the following, at a minimum: name, dates of attendance, most recent educational institution attended, major field(s) of study, participation in organizations (e.g., sports), and degrees and awards received. Contact Student Services at your Institution to find out how the Institution discloses “Directory” information.
May I request non-disclosure of my “Directory” information?
Yes. A request for non-disclosure form is available. Contact Student Services at your Institution to request the form. A request will be necessary at each Institution you attend.
What is “Non-Directory” information and who can access it?
“Non-Directory” information includes your social security number, citizenship status, sex/gender, religious preference, disciplinary record, final course grades, and grade point average (GPA). To access “Non-Directory” information, an interest related to fulfilling contracted responsibilities is required. Written consent to disclose “Non-Directory” information specifies the records to disclose, the purpose of disclosure, the individual(s) or organization(s) the consent covers, your signature, date of the request, and the period the consent is valid.
May parents or legal guardians access my “Education Record”?
It depends. FERPA rights transfer to you at age 18 OR when attendance begins at a post-secondary Institution. Then, a parent or legal guardian needs written authorization from you on file with the Institution to access your “Education Record.” Additionally, if an Institution accepts dependent status as a reason for disclosure, the parent or legal guardian can establish you are a dependent according to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, Section 152, and gain access to the full “Education Record” if the Institution allows it.
Is “Directory” information shared in courses a FERPA violation?
No. In the CCCS, your name, contact addresses, and telephone numbers are “Directory” information. It may be disclosed unless a specific written request for non-disclosure is on file with the Institution.
May instructors discuss my grades with anyone besides me?
No, unless consent to disclose to a specific person or organization is granted in advance and in writing and on file with the Institution. Final grades are protected by FERPA and may not be shared in a course in a way that is identifiable with specific Students. Even if YOU choose to discuss grades publicly, it does not waive your FERPA rights. Note that sharing anonymous grade distributions for an activity or your course is allowed (e.g., number of A, B, C, D, or F grades). Additionally, sharing group-grades with members of a group is allowed. Additionally, Instructors may comment constructively about your progress. For example, “Great job, you aced this activity!” or refer publicly to your progress in a way that furthers your learning and that of course peers. However, sharing grades for specific activities is rare and prohibited without written consent for final course grades.
What can instructors disclose during recommendations?
It is always a good idea to discuss what type of reference information to share if requesting an Instructor serve as a reference or write a letter of recommendation. Perhaps you will give an Instructor’s name as a reference for your application to another school, for employment, or other purpose. The Instructor might be asked about your course grade, religious preference, or other “Non-Directory” information. If you have not provided specific written consent for release of the information by that Instructor to that person or organization, it is a violation of FERPA to share the “Non-Directory” information. In a letter of recommendation, Instructors also need written consent allowing her/him to include “Non-Directory” information to the letter’s intended recipient.
What can instructors share if contacted on my behalf?
Instructors may discuss “Non-Directory” information if a written consent to disclose to that person is on file with the Institution. Therefore, if you are incapacitated and cannot contact the Instructor, the person contacting the Instructor needs to allow time for verification of the right to disclose “Non-Directory” information. The Instructor will likely request you contact her/him when able and refuse to discuss anything related to your course progress to avoid violating FERPA. Allowing others to contact an Instructor in an online course by “posing as you” is not allowed. In fact, sharing login information is a violation of CCCS policies.
If I violate policies in a course, do other instructors know?
Not likely. Instructors do not usually have access to disciplinary records for Academic Integrity violations, such as plagiarism, or other policy violations. Access to “Non-Directory” information is released only if there is a legitimate educational interest.
What do I do if I think a FERPA violation occurred?
Contact Student Services at your Institution for guidance on possible violations of FERPA. You may also contact the CCCOnline Student Services.