Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
This webpage provides the basics on this complex law as it relates to educational records at Bates College. Notification of FERPA rights is included annually in the Bates College Catalog and Student Handbook. Questions regarding FERPA should be directed to the Office of the Registrar and Academic Systems.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, known as FERPA applies to all educational institutions and agencies that receive funds under any program administered by the U.S. Secretary of Education. The law provides three fundamental rights to students:
• To inspect and review education records
• To request to amend education records
• To limit disclosure of “personally identifiable information” contained in education records
I. Who has FERPA protections?
At the post secondary level, FERPA rights are afforded to the student. There is no age requirement, and FERPA rights begin once a student is in attendance and continue until the student’s death. Rights are not afforded to parents of students, however, parents who claim a student as a dependent may have access to education records unless the student specifically prohibits it.
II. What are education records?
Education records are defined as records that are:
1) directly related to a student; and
2) maintained by Bates College or any party acting for Bates College.
This means that education records consist of any record maintained in any way, including but not limited to:
• print, including handwritten notes
• film, including microfilm and microfiche
• computer media
• e-mail (including e-mail that has been deleted but still exists in the computer system)
There are exceptions to the definition of education records:
1) Sole possession records. These are records that are not revealed to anyone else, and applies in situations when the record is an informal “memory jogger” to the individual making the record. A record made in conjunction with a student is not a sole possession record.
2) Records created and maintained by a Security official for law enforcement purposes. If a copy of the record is provided to another campus official, the record maintained by Security is not an education record, but the copy is deemed to be an education record.
3) Employment records. Any record that is made regarding an individual’s employment is generally not an education record unless the employment is contingent upon the individual attending the institution.
4) Medical records made and maintained in connection with treatment and disclosed only to individuals providing treatment.
5) Records that contain only information about an individual after she or he is no longer a student at Bates. This exception only pertains to information gathered after the student has left Bates College, for example some records maintained by the Advancement Office.
III. What must Bates College staff and faculty do to protect FERPA rights and be in compliance with the law?
1) FERPA affords students the right to limit disclosure of personally identifiable information.
Personally identifiable information is any information that would directly identify the student or make the student’s identity easily traceable. Such information may be released only in limited circumstances that include:
• prior consent from the student. A student has provided a signed, dated, written consent that specifies the records that may be disclosed, the purpose of the disclosure, and the party to whom disclosure may be made. For example, such a statement must be provided by Bates students and alumni to release a transcript.
• information that Bates has designated as “directory information.”
Directory information is defined as those data items that are generally not considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if publically available.
Bates College considers the following Directory Information: name; Bates identification (ID) number; class; address (campus, home, and e-mail); telephone listings; major and minor fields of study; participation in officially recognized sports, extracurricular activities, and off-campus study programs; dates of attendance; degrees, honors, and awards received from the College; and individually identifiable photographs and electronic images of the student solicited or maintained directly by Bates as part of the educational record.
Students are given the opportunity each year to request that directory information be withheld by informing the Registrar’s office. This means that no personally identifiable information may be released to a third party and no college publications will include such information, including information classified as “Directory Information.” Students do not have the option of having some directory information released, and some withheld. If the student has not indicated that directory information be withheld, Bates College may, but does not have to, release the information. (What this means is that if a Bates staff member does not feel comfortable about releasing directory information in a particular situation, it is acceptable to withhold the information.)
• to school officials who have a legitimate educational interest. This would include faculty members who, in order to advise or write a recommendation for a student, require access to a student’s record. The Bates staff member must be reviewing an education record to fulfill his or her professional responsibility.
• to schools in which the student seeks or intends to enroll.
• to Federal, State, and local authorities involving an audit or subpoena, organizations conducting studies on behalf of the college, and to accrediting organizations
• to parents of dependent students if the student has granted us permission
• in the event of a health or safety emergency
• results of a disciplinary hearing to an alleged victim of a crime of violence
2) Right to inspect and review education records
Bates must comply with student requests to inspect and review education records within 45 calendar days of receipt of the request. Bates is not required to provide copies of records unless the student is not located within commuting distance. In these cases, unofficial copies of records must be provided. Bates College is not required to release an official copy of the student’s transcript if there are outstanding balances on the student’s account or if other holds have been placed on the release of the official transcript.
Bates does not have to provide confidential letters and statements of recommendation if the student has waived his or her right to inspect and review them, and if related to:
a) admission to another educational institution,
b) application for employment,
c) receipt of an honor or honorary recognition.
Bates does not have to provide students with access to financial records of parents.
3) Right to request to amend education records
Bates students may exercise this right upon written request to the Registrar. The procedure is outlined in the Bates Student Handbook.
All Bates employees are encouraged to complete the FERPA tutorial available on the registrar’s Office website:
Please direct any questions regarding FERPA to the Registrar and Academic Systems Office located in Libbey Forum.