Students learn a lot, about a lot of things, during their time in class. College students learn about everything from physics equations to the thematic components of Manhattan Transfer. Most of all, they learn about their rights as students.
FERPA regulations guide how colleges and universities must handle student information. However, FERPA doesn’t just concern colleges, students, and educational information. The acronym stands for the Family and Educational Rights and Privacy Act since it also governs how administrators should maintain and distribute information to families.
Any educational institution that receives federal funding must abide by the rules set by FERPA. Otherwise, you can face worse consequences than losing funding; violating the law can result in criminal prosecution and accreditation loss. Make sure you don’t accidentally violate this vital law by learning more about it.
Keep reading below to learn more about how FERPA regulates how you can handle student information, and how you can stay in compliance with it!
Know What to Define as an Educational Record
The first thing you should understand about FERPA is that it sets clear guidelines on what is considered an educational record. Documents such as class schedules, grades, or anything else relating a student’s academic life is an educational record. Yet, anything involving university police or digital communications are not covered.
This means that anyone can request to view records of digital communications or police records since they’re public information. They’re not protected by FERPA, and public universities will need to comply with public information requests.
FERPA Regulations Limit Who Can View Files
FERPA explicitly states that students can view their own records, but only them. Nobody can request to see a student’s records unless the student themselves requests the record. It doesn’t matter if the person requesting records is a professor or a member of the student’s family.
This is meant to protect students’ privacy and allow them to have more control over their academic lives. It enables them to focus on what matters most: classes.
FERPA Protects Three Kinds of Information
There are three types of information that FERPA protects: educational information, personally identifiable information, and directory information. While each category has specific degrees of protection associated with it, it is generally illegal to distribute them. You can only give those kinds of information to the students they’re about.
Educational information can include anything about the student’s education, such as classes or grades. The category of personally identifiable information covers anything that can be used to identify a specific person, such as social security numbers*. Finally, directory information is a more unique kind of record.
Directory information can be distributed, as long as the university notifies students that their directory information may be released. This kind of information includes basic details such as names or addresses. It’s important to remember that the student should have time to request that their information remains private.
Violating FERPA Has Severe Consequences
Violating FERPA regulations will have severe consequences, no matter who you are or whatever institution you work for. Releasing information that should remain private will result in an investigation. You will also face consequences for failing to protect student information, too.
Keeping these confidential documents confidential also means knowing how to manage them. That’s why you should leave handling sensitive documents to the professionals. Contact us if you need a better way to maintain student information. We know FERPA inside and out, and will make sure you stay in compliance with it!