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FERPA FAQs - Students & Parents

For Students and Parents

What is FERPA?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that affords parents the right to have access to their children's education records, the right to seek to have the records amended, and the right to have some control over the disclosure of personally identifiable information from the education records. When a student turns 18 years old, or enters a postsecondary institution at any age, the rights under FERPA transfer from the parents to the student ("eligible student"). The FERPA statute is found at 20 U.S.C. § 1232g and the FERPA regulations are found at 34 CFR Part 99.

Why should I care about FERPA?

If you're a student, it's important for you to understand your rights under FERPA. If you're a parent, you'll need to understand how the law changes once your student enters a post-secondary institution. If you're an employee of MACU with access to student education records, you're obligated to comply with FERPA and to protect those records according to the law.

When do the FERPA rights of a student begin?

According to the law, a person becomes a student for purposes of FERPA when they are "in attendance" at an institution. This includes attendance in person or remotely by videoconference, satellite, Internet, or other electronic and telecommunications technologies. At MACU, we define a student as someone currently or previously enrolled in any academic offering of the University. This does not include prospective students or applicants to any academic program of the University.

FERPA becomes effective on the first day those newly admitted students who have scheduled at least one course. A student who accepted an admission offer but did not schedule at least one course, or a newly admitted student who canceled his/her registration either before or after the semester begins, is not covered by FERPA. 

What are "education records"?

Please review the FERPA definitions page for a complete definition.

As a parent, am I allowed to access my son or daughter's education records?

In primary and secondary educational institutions (i.e. K-12), all FERPA rights belong to the parent. However, when the student reaches the age of 18 or begins to attend a post-secondary institutionregardless of age, all FERPA rights transfer to the student. For MACU students, the FERPA rights belong to the students, not the parents.

As a parent, am I allowed to access my son or daughter's education records if they are listed as a dependent?

If the student is a dependent for income tax purposes, the institution may disclose any education records, including financial records to a student's parents. If the student is not a dependent, then the student must generally provide consent for the school to disclose the information to the parents.

If I am a parent of a college student, do I have the right to see my child's education records, especially if I pay the bill?

The rights under FERPA transfer from the parents to the student, once the student turns 18 years old or enters a postsecondary institution at any age. However, although the rights under FERPA have now transferred to the student, a school may disclose information from an "eligible student's" education records to the parents of the student, without the student's consent, if the student is a dependent for tax purposes. Neither the age of the student nor the parent's status as a custodial parent is relevant. If a student is claimed as a dependent by either parent for tax purposes, then either parent may have access under this provision. (34 CFR § 99.31(a)(8).)

May a postsecondary institution disclose to a parent, without the student's consent, information regarding a student's violation of the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance?

Yes, if the student is under the age of 21 at the time of the disclosure. FERPA was amended in 1998 to allow such disclosures. See § 99.31(a)15 of the FERPA regulations. Also, if the student is a "dependent student" as defined in FERPA, the institution may disclosure such information, regardless of the age of the student.

Are there any conditions under which student education records may be disclosed without the student's consent?

Yes, FERPA does contain some exceptions to the written consent rule. Those exceptions allow disclosure without consent: 

  • To University officials (including third parties under contract) with legitimate educational interests
  • To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena
  • To appropriate parties in a health or safety emergency in order to protect the student or others
  • To parents in cases of drug or alcohol violation when the student is under the age of 21
  • To the provider or creator of a record to verify the validity of that record (e.g. in cases of suspected fraud)
  • To organizations conducting research studies on behalf of the University, provided there is awritten agreement between the University and the research organization
  • To officials at an institution in which the student seeks or intends to enroll or is currently enrolled

Is the University required to release a student's directory information?


No. The only required disclosure of education records is to the student. All other disclosures, including those with student consent and disclosures of directory information, are at the discretion of the institution.
 
Can a student prevent the release of their directory information?

FERPA requires each institution to allow students to block disclosure of their directory information. At MACU, we refer to this action as "confidentiality." The following are consequences of a student placing confidentiality on their record:

  • Student name/address is excluded from online or printed directories.
  • Student name will not appear in the commencement program.
  • Verification of enrollment, graduation, or degrees awarded will not be provided to third parties, including potential employers and insurance companies.
  • No information will be released to any person on the telephone or via e-mail.

Requests for confidentiality are permanent until removed in writing by the student.