Understanding FERPA

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The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 is a federal law enacted at the request of institutes, students and parents to protect the privacy of student education records. For your reference, there are numerous sources of information regarding FERPA such as the Georgia Tech Registrar's Web site and the U.S. Department of Education Web site. But how does it actually applies to students and parents?

The following is intended to clarify some very common questions regarding FERPA in the college (post-secondary) environment:

Why does FERPA exist?
FERPA was created to protect the privacy of student educational records. The purpose of the law is to also afford students certain rights pertaining to their educational records.

What rights does FERPA protect?
FERPA gives students the right to inspect and review their own educational records; to request amendments to their records; and to have some control over the release of personally identifiable information from their records.

To what students does FERPA protection apply?
FERPA applies to students who attend institutions (colleges and universities) that receive federal funding, including federal loans, Pell grants, research grants, contracts, and other sources of aid. Since Georgia Tech receives federal funding in most of these categories, students attending Georgia Tech are protected by FERPA. A student is officially considered "in attendance" if registered on the first day of classes for that term. The type of access that parents have to student records while the student is in high school is very different once college attendance begins.

Parents can access educational records throughout grade and high school. Why cannot a parent readily access their student's records now that he/she is in college?
FERPA assigns certain rights to parents with respect to accessing their student's educational records. These rights transfer to the student once he/she reaches the age of 18 and/or attends a post-secondary educational school that receives federal funding.

What is meant by "right to consent to disclosure?"
FERPA gives protected students the right to give written permission to the school to release any information from their education record, including grades. There are some important nuances to this clause.
1. Schools covered under FERPA can disclose educational records to school officials and other parties with legitimate educational/safety/lawful interest without student consent. This could include financial aid administrators, academic advisors, health and safety personnel, law enforcement officials, etc.
2. FERPA also allows schools to disclose "directory information" - information not generally considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. Directory Information cannot include student identification numbers or social security numbers. Georgia Tech considers the following information to be directory Information:
• Name, address, e-mail address and telephone listing
• Level (graduate or undergraduate)
• Field of study (major)
• Enrollment status (full-time, part-time, less than part-time)
• Dates of attendance
• Degrees, date awarded, associated honors /designations
Students have the right to prohibit the release of this directory information. To do so, they should visit the Registrars' Confidentiality Web site and follow the instructions posted.

What if my student gives me their student ID and PIN? Is it okay to access their records?
No. Georgia Tech has strict protocols regarding usage of and access to computing and network resources. Parents and students are encouraged to click here to review these policies. While the intent may not be in malice, students will be in violation of this policy if they share their Georgia tech ID and PIN with anyone including their parents. From experience, the best method for parents to understand their student's grades is to communicate with their student. A student can print their unofficial transcript at any time and may request an official transcript be sent to their parents.

For more information, visit the Registrar's Web site.


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    Rachael Pocklington
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    Fletcher Moore
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