What is FERPA?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended, sets forth requirements
regarding the privacy of student records and affords students certain rights with
respect to their education records.
- The right to inspect and review their education records within 45 days of the date the University receives a request for access
- The right to request the amendment of the student’s education records that the student believes are inaccurate or misleading
- The right to consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information contained in the student’s education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent
- The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the University of South Carolina to comply with the requirements of FERPA
What are Education Records?
- Records that are directly related to a student, which include any information in any medium, including but not limited to, handwriting, print, tapes, film, e-mail, microfilm, and microfiche
- Records that are maintained by an agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution
Examples of an Education Record
- Admissions information for students who are accepted and enrolled
- Biographical information including date and place of birth, gender, nationality, race, ethnicity, and identification photographs
- Grades, test scores, evaluations, courses taken, academic specialization and activities, and official communications regarding a student’s status
- Coursework including papers and exams, class schedules, as well as written e-mail or recorded communications that are part of the academic process
- Disciplinary records
- Student account and financial aid records
- Internship program records
Education Records are Not
- Sole possession records such as memory aids, reference tools, and personal notes that are not shared with others or made accessible to others, including but not limited to, the student and other USC officials
- University of South Carolina law enforcement records made exclusively for law enforcement purposes
- Medical treatment and counseling records
- Employment records, unless the student’s employment is predicated upon his or her status as a student
- Alumni records which do not relate to or contain information about the person as a student
Disclosure of Education Records
Student education records may not be disclosed to anyone unless the student has given written consent, or the request fits one of the legal exceptions.
One of the exceptions is the release of directory information about a student. Consent
from a student is not generally required for the release of directory information,
and it may be viewed and released to the public unless the student has placed an affirmative
restriction on its release with the University Registrar’s office.
USC's Directory Information
- Student’s name
- Email address
- Local and permanent mailing addresses and telephone numbers
- Semesters of attendance
- Enrollment status: full- or part-time; currently enrolled or not
- Date of admission
- Date of expected or actual graduation
- School, major, and minor fields of study
- Classification (freshman, etc.)
- Type of degree being pursued; degrees awarded
- Honors, awards received, scholarships and fellowships
- Weight and height of members of athletic teams
- University identification photo
- Student’s participation in officially recognized activities and sports sponsored by the University
Disclosure Without Prior Consent
FERPA law also defines a number of other circumstances besides the release of directory information in which an education record can be released to certain parties without written permission from the student.
Examples of these exceptions include:
- School officials who act in the student’s educational interest on a legitimate, need-to-know basis. A school official is a person employed by the University in an administrative, supervisory, academic or research, or support staff position; a person or company with whom the University has contracted; a person serving on the Board of Trustees; or a student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee, or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks.
- Officials of other institutions in which the student seeks or intends to enroll provided that the student had previously requested a release of his or her record
- Authorized representatives of the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Attorney General, INS, the Comptroller General of the United States, state education authorities, organizations conducting studies for or on behalf of the University, and accrediting organizations
- In connection with the student’s application for, and receipt of, financial aid
- To comply with judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena
- To parents of dependent students as defined by the Internal Revenue Code, Section 152
- To appropriate parties in a health or safety emergency
- To the alleged victim of any crime of violence of the results of any disciplinary proceedings conducted by the University
- The University may disclose the result of a disciplinary proceeding to a parent or guardian so long as the student is under the age of 21 at the time of the incident and the proceeding has resulted in a violation of University drug or alcohol policies, or any federal, state, or local law.
- To students currently registered in a particular class section, the names and email addresses of others on the roster may be disclosed in order to participate in class discussion
Legitimate Educational Interest
A faculty member, staff member, or school official has a legitimate educational interest
in accessing or reviewing a student’s educational records without the student’s written
consent if he or she needs to review an educational record in order to fulfill his
or her professional responsibility.
Parental Access to Student Records
- Parents may obtain directory information unless the student has placed an affirmative restriction on its release.
- Parents may obtain non-directory information by obtaining a signed consent from their child. Records of student permission are maintained in the Office of the University Registrar.
- Parents may obtain non-directory information if the child is a legal dependent for tax purposes and files a FERPA Release form [pdf] with the registrar's office.
To Avoid FERPA Violations
- When uncertain, do not release information about an education record. Instead, refer the inquiry to the University Registrar’s office.
- Shred records containing social security numbers, grades, or any other personally identifiable information
- Practice prudence. Safely store confidential information, and do not leave confidential information displayed on an unattended computer.
- Post students’ grades on Self Service Carolina and Blackboard only.
- Do not circulate a printed class roll with the student name and SSN/Student ID.
- Do not provide anyone with student schedules.
- Do not include confidential information in a recommendation letter without the written consent of the student.