The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act Informational Guidelines
What is FERPA?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 helps protect the privacy of student education records. The Act provides for the right to inspect and review education records, the right to seek to amend those records and to limit disclosure of information from the records. The intent of the legislation is to protect the rights of students and to ensure the privacy and accuracy of education records. The Act applies to all institutions that are the recipients of federal aid administered by the Secretary of Education.
What rights does FERPA afford students with respect to their education records?
- The right to inspect and review their education records within 45 days of the day the College receives a request for access.
Students should submit written requests to the Office of Student Records and identify the record(s) they wish to inspect. The staff of the office will make arrangements for access and notify the student of the time and place where the records may be inspected. If the requested records are not maintained in the Office of Student Records, the student will be notified of the correct official to whom the request should be addressed.
- The right to request amendments to the student’s education records that the student believes are inaccurate or misleading.
Students may ask the College to amend a record that they believe is inaccurate or misleading. They should write the Office of Student Records, clearly identify the part of the record they want changed, and specify why it is inaccurate or misleading.
If the College decides not to amend the record as requested by the student, the College will notify the student of the decision and advise the student of his or her right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment. Additional information regarding the hearing will be provided to the student when notified of the hearing.
- The right to consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information contained in the student’s education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent.
One exception which permits disclosure without consent is disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests. A school official is a person employed by the College in an administrative, supervisory, academic or research, or support staff position (including law enforcement unit personnel and health staff); a person or company with whom the College has contracted (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent); a person serving on the Board of Trustees; or a student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee, or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks.
A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility.
- The right to file a complaint with the U. S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the college to comply with the requirements of FERPA. The name and address of the Office that administers FERPA is:
Family Policy Compliance Office
U. S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Ave., SW
Washington, D.C. 20202-5920
Who is protected under FERPA?
Students who are currently enrolled or formerly enrolled regardless of their age or status with regard to parental dependency. Students who have applied but have not attended an institution and deceased students do not come under FERPA guidelines.
Parents of students termed as “dependent” for income tax purposes may have access to the student’s education records. (At the educational institution’s discretion) A copy of the parent’s most recent Federal Income Tax return, where the parents declared the student as a dependent, must be submitted to the Office of Student Records to document “dependency.”
What are education records?
With certain exceptions, an education record is any record
(1) from which a student can be personally identified and
(2) maintained by the College.
A student has the right of access to these records.
Education records include any records in whatever medium (handwritten, print, magnetic tape, film, diskette, etc.) that are in the possession of any school official. This includes transcripts or other records obtained from a school in which a student was previously enrolled.
What is not included in an education record?
- sole possession records or private notes held by school officials that are not accessible or released to other personnel,
- law enforcement or campus security records that are solely for law enforcement purposes and maintained solely by the law enforcement unit,
- records relating to individuals who are employed by the institution (unless contingent upon attendance),
- records relating to treatment provided by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist or other recognized professional or paraprofessional and disclosed only to individuals providing treatment,
- records of an institution that contain only information about an individual obtained after that person is no longer a student at that institution, i.e., alumni records.
What is directory information?
Institutions may disclose information on a student without violating FERPA if it has designated that information as “directory information.” At SWGTC this includes a student’s:
- name of student
- telephone number
- date of birth
- program of study
- dates of attendance
- email address
- current enrollment status (full-time/part-time)
- degree, diploma, technical certificate of credit, received
- honors and awards received
How does a student authorize release of their education record in the form of an academic transcript?
Students must authorize the release of their transcript by written request with signature or by completing and signing a transcript request form available in Student Services or on line at http://www.southwestgatech.edu/docs/request_for_transcript.pdf. The receipt of a written request with signature to release an education record via fax is permissible.
Who may have access to student information?
- The student and any outside party who has the student’s written request.
- School officials (as defined by the College) who have “legitimate educational interests.”
- Parents of a dependent student as defined by the Internal Revenue Code.
- A person in response to a lawfully issued subpoena or court order, as long as the College makes a reasonable attempt to notify the student first. Normally, the College will comply with a subpoena after two weeks have elapsed from the day the subpoena was received.
When is the student’s consent not required to disclose information?
When the disclosure is:
- to school officials (defined in policy) who have a legitimate educational interest,
- to federal, state, and local authorities involving an audit or evaluation of compliance with educational programs,
- in connection with financial aid; this includes Veterans’ benefits,
- to organizations conducting studies for or on behalf of educational institutions,
- to accrediting organizations,
- to parents of a dependent student,
- to comply with a judicial order or subpoena
- in a health or safety emergency,
- releasing directory information,
- releasing the results of a disciplinary hearing to an alleged victim of a crime of violence.
How will increasing technology impact FERPA on our campus?
The use of computerized record-keeping systems is increasing at a fast pace. We can anticipate that the distribution of electronic data will eventually replace most paper documents and provide much information about students to school officials through desktop terminals. It is the responsibility of each school official to understand their legal responsibilities under FERPA. The same principles of confidentiality that apply to paper records also apply to electronic data.
As set forth in its student catalog, Southwest Georgia Technical College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, national or ethnic origin, gender, religion, disability, age, political affiliation or belief, veteran status, or citizenship status (except in those special circumstances permitted or mandated by law). The Title IX Coordinator: Joyce Halstead, VPSA, SWGTC Building A, (229) 225-5062. Section 504 Coordinator: Dr. Jeanine Long, SWGTC Building A, (229)227-2668.