Educational Records and FERPA

Overview

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law regarding the privacy of student records and the obligations of the institution, primarily in the areas of release of the records and the access provided to these records. Any educational institution that receives funds under any program administered by the U.S. Secretary of Education is bound by FERPA requirements. Institutions that fail to comply with FERPA may have funds administered by the Secretary of Education withheld.

Student education records are considered confidential and may not be released to third parties without written consent from the student unless disclosure is permitted through one of the FERPA signed consent exceptions.

What are Education Records?

Education records are defined as records, files, documents, and other materials that contain information directly related to a student and are maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for such agency or institution. Education records take many forms, including paper and electronic.

Examples of an education record include, but are not limited to:

  • Biographical information including date and place of birth, gender, nationality, information about race and ethnicity, and identification photographs
  • Grades, test scores, evaluations, courses taken, academic specialization and activities, and official communications regarding your status
  • Coursework including papers and exams, class schedules, as well as written email or recorded communications that are part of the academic process
  • Disciplinary records
  • Financial aid and financial aid records, including employment records that are dependent on the status as a student (ex: Federal Work-Study, student interns, teaching assistants).
  • Internship program records
  • Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) records and Student Health records are also governed by FERPA and state privacy law

Education records do not include:

  • Sole possession records that are used only as memory aids and not shared with others
  • Law enforcement unit records
  • Employment records, unless the employment is dependent on the employee’s status as a student (such as evaluations of graduate assistants)
  • Records that only contain information about an individual that are generated after he or she is no longer a student at that agency or institution (e.g., alumni records).

FERPA University Regulations

FIU-108 Access to Student Education Records

FERPA Access Request for Research Projects

Request for Access to Educational Records for Research

FAQs on Using Educational Records

FIU-108 of the Board of Trustees Regulations requires that requests for academic research involving
student education records be referred to the University Registrar and to the Provost for approval.

The Principal Investigator (PI) needs to fill out a “Request for Access to Educational Records for Research” form and then email the signed form to Dr. Howard Holness (holnessh@fiu.edu) for the Provost’s approval. Dr. Holness will then forward the form to the University Registrar (Dulce Beltran) for approval. The Registrar will then then return the final approved form back to the PI.

The final signed version of the request form needs to be attached the FERPA section of the FIU IRB Approval Form.

Directory information is designated at FIU as:

  • Student’s name;
  • Major and minor fields of study;
  • Student classification;
  • Participation in officially recognized activities and sports;
  • Weight and height of members of athletic teams;
  • Dates of attendance;
  • Degrees and/or awards;
  • Most recent previous educational institution attended; and
  • Student’s photographic image

Please note that researchers are still required to make a formal request in order to use directory information for research purposes.

Under current regulations, personally identifiable information (PII) includes a student’s name and
other direct personal identifiers, such as the student’s SSN or student number. PII also includes
indirect identifiers, such as the name of the student’s parent or other family members; the student’s or
family’s address, and personal characteristics or other information that would make the student’s
identity easily traceable. The final regulations add biometric records to the list of personal identifiers
that constitute PII, and add other indirect identifiers, such as date and place of birth and mother’s
maiden name, as examples of identifiers that should be considered in determining whether information
is personally identifiable.  FIU also considers student email addresses as PII.