Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

Definition

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) refers to a law that protects the privacy of a student's education records.  FERPA is a federal law that applies to any school that receives funds from the United States Department of Education.

Explanation

Institutions of higher education, as well as companies, oftentimes request copies of official transcripts as part of their application screening or verification processes.  This transcript will include a list of the classes taken by the student as well as the grade received in each subject.  It will also contain a GPA, which is an average of these grades weighted by the number of credit hours assigned to each course.

Also known as FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 provides parents with certain rights to their child's education records.  When the student reaches the age of 18, or attends a school beyond high school, those rights transfer to the student; at that point the student is referred to as an "eligible student."  Under FERPA, parents or eligible students have the right to:

  • Inspect and review the student's education records.
  • Request a school correct records they believe are inaccurate or misleading.

FERPA also protects the privacy of a student's academic records by requiring written permission from a parent or the eligible student before releasing this information.  However, FERPA does allow schools to disclose this information, without written permission, under the following conditions:

  • If a school official has a legitimate educational interest in the student's records.
  • If the student transfers to another school, the records can be sent to the new school.
  • If a school official needs access to student records for auditing purposes.
  • If the student has applied for financial aid, their academic records can be sent to the appropriate officials.
  • If an organization is conducting an approved study on behalf of the school.
  • To comply with a judicial order or subpoena.
  • Pursuant to a state law that requires disclosure to a juvenile justice system.
  • In the event there is a health or safety emergency.

Schools are also permitted to disclose, without consent, directory information; such as:

  • The student's name, address, and telephone number.
  • The students date and place of birth.
  • Honors or awards bestowed upon the student.
  • The dates the student attended the school.

Schools must inform parents and eligible students about directory information they possess, and allow parents and students a reasonable amount of time to request this information not be disclosed.

Related Terms

early decisionearly action, early admissionacademic letter of recommendation, official transcript