FERPA Frequently Asked Questions

Maintaining confidentiality of student records at the College of Coastal Georgia is everyone's responsibility. This simple tutorial is designed to provide a basic knowledge of FERPA and regulations governing the release of student record information. College employees (including student workers) who currently have access or have requested access to the College's Student Information System will be required to complete this tutorial before access is permitted. Employees may be asked periodically to review and acknowledge their understanding of this material to remain current with federal regulations.
  1. What is FERPA?
  2. What rights to students have under FERPA?
  3. Who is a "student" for purposes of FERPA?
  4. What are educational records?
  5. What are NOT educational records?
  6. Can you explain more about "personal records" and the FERPA?
  7. Is personally identifiable information related to students, such as social security numbers, protected under FERPA?
  8. What is "directory information?"
  9. Is student consent required to release "directory Information?"
  10. Can parents or legal guardians get student information?
  11. Other than "directory information," are there any other conditions under which a student's education records may be disclosed without the student's consent?
  12. For purposes of the exception to the consent rule, who are "College officials?"
  13. What constitutes "legitimate educational interest?"

What is FERPA?

Any educational institution or educational agency that receives fund under any program administered by the United States Secretary of Education is required to comply with the he Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), as amended. The FERPA is a federal law that sets forth requirements regarding the privacy of student records. FERPA governs the release of records maintained by an educational institution, as well as access to those records. FERPA rights begin when a student registers and attends his/her first class. Institutions that receive funds administered by the Federal Office of Education are bound by FERPA requirements and failure to comply may result in the loss of federal funding.

What rights do students have under FERPA?

FERPA grants four (4) specific rights to the student:
  • The right to review and inspect their educational records;
  • The right to have their educational records amended or corrected;
  • The right to limit disclosure of some portions of their educational records; and
  • The right to file a complaint with the United States Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the College to comply with the Act.

Who is a "student" for purposes of FERPA?

According to the law, a person becomes a student for purposes of FERPA when they are "in attendance" at an institution. This includes attendance in person or remotely by videoconference, satellite, Internet, or other electronic and telecommunications technologies. This does not include future students or applicants to any academic program of the College.

At the College, FERPA becomes effective on the first day of classes for those newly admitted students who have scheduled at least one course. A student who accepted an admission offer, but did not schedule at least one course, or a newly admitted student who canceled his/her registration either before or after the semester begins, is not covered by FERPA.

What are educational records?

Under FERPA, education records are defined as any personally identifiable information that is directly related to a student and maintained by an educational agency, institution, or party acting for the agency or institution. Education records can exist in any medium, including, but not limited to, typewritten, hand-written, computer generated, videotape, audiotape, film, microfilm, microfiche, and electronic mail. Educational records typically include, but are not limited to:
  • Grades;
  • Class lists;
  • Student course schedules;
  • Disciplinary records;
  • Student financial records; and
  • Payroll records for employees who are employed as a direct result of their status as students (e.g. work study, assistantships, resident assistants)

What are NOT educational records?

Education records do not include the following:
  • A personal record kept by a faculty or staff member if it is kept in the sole possession of the maker of the record, is not accessible or revealed to any other person except a temporary substitute for the maker of the record and is not used for purposes other than a memory or reference tool.
  • Records created and maintained by the College of Coastal Georgia Police Department for law enforcement purposes.
  • An employment record of an individual whose employment is not contingent on the fact that he or she is a student.
  • Records made or maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist or other recognized professional or paraprofessional if the records are used only for treatment of a student and made available only to those persons providing the treatment.
  • Alumni records which contain information about a student after he or she is no longer in attendance at the University and which do not relate to the person as a student.

Can you explain more about "personal records" and the FERPA?

Personal notes, also known as sole possession notes, are made and maintained by a faculty or staff member. For example, an advisor meets with a student to discuss the upcoming semester. After the student leaves the room, the advisor documents what was discussed and files the note in his or her own file drawer. This is considered to be a personal note because it was not made in the presence of others and it was filed in the advisors own office. Therefore, this personal note is not part of the education record and is not subject to FERPA.

Is personally identifiable information related to students, such as social security numbers, protected under FERPA?

Personally identifiable information relating to students must be handled in a secure manner under FERPA. This includes all records containing the student's social security or student identification number, such as registration forms, transcripts, student information displayed on a computer screen, grades, class assignments, class rosters, student schedules, and reports. Any printed or displayed document that contains the student's social security or student ID number is considered to be personally identifiable information and thus protected under FERPA.

What is "directory information?"

The College has designated the following information as "directory information": A student's name; participation in officially recognized activities and sports; address; telephone listing; weight and height of members of athletic teams; electronic mail address; photograph; degrees, honors, and awards received; date and place of birth; major field of study; dates of attendance; grade level; the most recent educational agency or institution attended.

Is student consent required to release "directory Information?"

No, the FERPA permits public disclosure of directory information without the student's consent. However, the College is not required to release a student's directory information, and the FERPA actually permits a student to block disclosure of their directory information. To prevent the disclosure of directory information, students should contact the Registrar at 912.279.5738 or via e-mail at llesseig@ccga.edu.

Can parents or legal guardians get student information?

When a student reaches the age of eighteen (18) or begins attending a post secondary institution, regardless of age, FERPA rights transfer to the student. Concerns such as progress in a course, deficiencies in a subject area, scores and grades on papers, exams, etc., are all examples of personally identifiable information that constitute part of the student's education record. This information is protected under FERPA and parents may not have access unless (1) the student provides written authorization that specifically identifies what information may be released to the parent(s) or (2) the parent(s) establish that the student is a dependent according to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, Section 152.

Other than "directory information," are there any other conditions under which a student's education records may be disclosed without the student's consent?

Yes, FERPA does contain some exceptions to the written consent rule. Those exceptions allow disclosure without consent under the following circumstances:
  • To College officials (including third parties under contract) with legitimate educational interests;
  • To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
  • To appropriate parties in a health or safety emergency in order to protect the student or others;
  • To parents with proof of dependency;
  • To parents in cases of drug or alcohol violation when the student is under the age of 21;
  • To the provider or creator of a record to verify the validity of that record (e.g. in cases of suspected fraud);
  • To organizations conducting research studies on behalf of the College, provided there is a written agreement between the College and the research organization; and
  • To officials at an institution in which the student seeks or intends to enroll or is currently enrolled

For purposes of the exception to the consent rule, who are "College officials?"

"College officials" are College employees with general or specific responsibility for promoting the educational objectives of the College or third parties under contract with the College to provide professional, business and similar administrative services related to the College's educational mission. Individuals whose responsibilities place them within this category include instructors; faculty advisers; admissions counselors; academic advisers; counselors; employment placement personnel; deans, department chairpersons, directors, and other administrative officials responsible for some part of the academic enterprise or one of the supporting activities; College Police personnel; health staff; development officers; staff in Alumni Relations; administrative and faculty sponsors of officially recognized clubs, organizations, etc.; members, including students and alumni, of official College committees; staff personnel employed to assist College officials in discharging professional responsibilities; and persons or entities under contract to the College to provide a specific task or service related to the College's educational mission.

What constitutes "legitimate educational interest?"

FERPA permits College employees to have access to student education records in which they have "legitimate educational interest." Such access does not require prior written consent of the student. Essentially, a "legitimate educational interest" exists if it is necessary for employees to carry out their responsibilities in support of the College's educational mission. You can also think of legitimate educational interest as a "need to know" that is essential to carrying out your job responsibilities related to education. It is important to understand several points related to "legitimate educational interest":
  • Curiosity is not a legitimate educational interest.
  • A "legitimate educational interest" does not exist simply because an individual seeking education records is a College employee. Instead, the need to know must be related to the individual's job responsibilities in support of the College's educational mission. In other words, records should be used only in the context of official business in conjunction with the educational success of the student.
  • A College employee's "legitimate educational interest" is limited. While the employee may have a need to access education records for students enrolled at the College, he or she does not necessarily have a similar need to view all records of students. In other words, access to information does not authorize unrestricted use.
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