What is FERPA?
What is FERPA?
FERPA is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Enacted in 1974, this federal law establishes requirements that protect the privacy and confidentiality of student educational records and extends certain rights to “eligible” students. The law governs access to records maintained by educational institutions and the release of information from those records. The law is applicable to all educational agencies or institutions receiving federal funding.
Important Notes for Advisors
- Institutions are required to make their FERPA policies available. These can usually be obtained through the registrar.
- The advisor is vital in getting acquainted with the registrar’s staff and handling all student information safely.
- Students may, in writing, request or permit the disclosure of educational records to third parties. Have candidates include a transcript or a consent for release of their GPA and standing with their application for membership (for those chapters who still use applications).
- It is best to have a membership selection policy that permits a staff or faculty member as the only person with access to the records of candidates for membership. This data steward can advise the chapter with a “yes” or “no” about a candidate’s eligibility without revealing anything further about candidates’ grades or standing.
- It is essential that honor societies carefully manage all student records—of members and candidates for membership. There are many online references at www.ed.gov or www.aacrao.org. Your institution’s policies prevail.
- The Mortar Board National Office is happy to provide advisors with assistance.
What is an "eligible" student?
Under FERPA, parents have certain rights regarding their children’s educational records. These rights are transferred exclusively to the child when he/she turns 18 or attends a postsecondary school, thus becoming an “eligible” student.
What is an "educational record?"
The term educational record means records, files, documents and other materials that contain information directly related to a student, and are maintained by an employee or agent of the university. A record includes any form of recorded information and may be printed, handwritten, digital, etc. Even public records (police reports), when held by the institution, become educational records and are protected by FERPA.
Exception - Directory information
There are a few exceptions to FERPA. One in particular includes “directory information.” FERPA allows for the release of directory Information as an institution has defined it. This typically includes name, address, telephone number, email address, program of study, activities, honors and awards and dates of attendance. It can be extended by the institution to include relevant information like a student athlete’s height and weight. Directory information may be provided to third parties without a student’s consent. Students have the right to withhold directory information if they request nondisclosure through the registrar’s office.
Tips for working within FERPA's provisions on your campus
Many honor societies, including Mortar Board, require members to meet an academic standard, which is often a specific minimum grade point average. The organization may have other requirements for membership that need to be verified through student records, like class standing, number of hours enrolled, etc.