Public Information and the Security of Your Student Records (FERPA)

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 restricts the release of student information to the public without the consent of the student, except for directory information.
Directory information includes name, enrollment status - full time, part time etc., dates of enrollment, major/field of study, degrees earned and honors earned. The Solomon Amendment requires institutions receiving federal funds to provide additional directory information that includes address and phone numbers of enrolled students to the US Military. Personal identifiers, such as the student’s identification/social security number, cannot be designated as directory information. Students may elect to withhold directory information by notifying the Admissions and Records Office in writing. Requests for non-disclosure will be honored by the College for one academic year. Additional information may be obtained through the Admissions and Records Office.

Learn more about FERPA (https://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html) .


15 Things You Should Know About FERPA

1. What is FERPA?

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a “Federal law designed to protect the privacy of student education records.” FERPA is also known as the Buckley Amendment.

2. What rights does FERPA give students?

FERPA gives students the right to do the following:

  • Inspect and review their education records.
  • Request an amendment to their education records.
  • Participate in a hearing if the request for an amendment is unsatisfactory.
  • Request that the institution not disclose directory information items about them.
  • File a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education.

3. What does FERPA mean for colleges?

In general, colleges must do the following:

  • Notify the students annually about FERPA.
  • Provide students access to inspect and review their education records.
  • Allow students to request to amend their education records.
  • Provide students an opportunity to sign written releases of their student record information.
  • Keep records of requests for and disclosures of student education records.
  • Restrict school officials’ access to records for legitimate educational purposes only.

4. What is a school official?

Defined from institution to institution in its annual notification, a school official may be the following:

  • An employee of a college (administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support staff position).
  • A person elected to the board of trustees.
  • A company or person employed/contracted by a college to perform a special task (i.e., attorney, auditor, or collection agency).
  • A person or student serving on an official committee (i.e., disciplinary/grievance, scholarship) or assisting an official in their tasks (i.e., work study students).
  • Contractors, Volunteers, and others performing institutional functions.
  • CCCS has designated the National Student Clearinghouse as a school official as we utilize their services for enrollment and degree verification.

5. What is an education record?

An education record is any record, with certain exceptions, maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution that is directly related to a student or students. This record can contain a student’s name(s) or information from which an individual student can be personally (individually) identified. These records may include the following: files, documents, and materials in whatever medium (handwriting, print, tapes, disks, film, microfilm, microfiche) which contain information directly related to students and from which students can be personally (individually) identified.

6. What are some examples of an education record?

  • Registration forms
  • Transcripts
  • Student information displayed on a computer screen
  • Grades
  • Student schedules
  • Class rosters
  • Any paper with the students SSN or Student ID, or information that is personally identifiable to a student and from which a student can be identified.
  • Employment records if the student is employed as a result of their status as a student

7. What is not considered an education record?

Personal notes made outside the presence of the student are not considered education records; however, once you share that information with someone else, it then is protected by FERPA standards.

Other examples of items that are not part of an educational record are:

  • Case Study
  • Law enforcement unit records
  • Employment records
  • Medical records
  • Alumni records

8. What is a legitimate educational interest?

A legitimate educational interest is the demonstrated “need to know” by those officials of an institution who act in the student’s educational interest. FERPA allows schools to establish their own criteria for this. Faculty generally may not view a student’s educational record without first being identified as having a legitimate educational interest.

9. What does personally identifiable mean?

Personally identifiable means data or information which may include the following:

  • Student name, the student’s parent, or other family members
  • The student’s campus or home address
  • A personal identifier (such as a social security number or student number)
  • A list of personal characteristics or other information which would make the student’s identity easily traceable

10. What does FERPA mean for staff/faculty?

  • All employees who have access to educational records are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of those records.
  • Staff/faculty may not release non-directory information to a third party without the written consent of the student, unless one of the exceptions outlined in FERPA applies.
  • Staff/faculty should be aware of what is considered directory information and only release such information after confirming that the student has not requested directory exclusion.

11. What is directory information?

Many higher education institutions have directories. The following items are designated as directory information set by SP 4-80a. Colleges may disclose any of this information without prior written consent, unless notified by the student in writing to the contrary by the first official class meeting date of each semester.

  • Student name
  • Major field of study
  • Dates of attendance
  • Degrees and awards received
  • Enrollment status (i.e. full-time, three-quarter-time, half-time, withdrawn, graduated or deceased)
  • Most recent educational institution attended
  • Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
  • Height and weight (only for students in officially recognized activities and sports)

Addresses (including mail and e-mail) are considered Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and are not released as Directory Information except for the following:

  • Graduation lists released to news media, which may include the student’s city of residence.
  • Other listings to the news media and college personnel for special awards, honors, and events. Notification to Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and other academic honor societies for students who are eligible to be considered for membership.

Directory information may NEVER include the following:

  • Social Security number
  • Race/ethnicity
  • Gender
  • A student’s entire date of birth (only birth year can be provided)
  • Anything that is harmful or an invasion of privacy

12. What does FERPA mean for a student’s parents?

Current regulations also provide that even after a student has become an “eligible student” under FERPA, postsecondary institutions (and high schools, for students over 18 years of age) may allow parents to have access to their child’s education records, without the student’s consent, in the following circumstances:

  • The student is a dependent for Federal income tax purposes
  • The disclosure is in connection with a health or safety emergency under the conditions specified in (i.e., if knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals
  • For postsecondary students, the student has violated any Federal, State or local law, or any rule or policy of the institution, governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance, if the institution determines that the student has committed a disciplinary violation regarding that use or possession and the student is under 21 at the time of the disclosure.

13. What does FERPA mean for computer use?

Computer users must either lock the screen or clear all student data and log out of any student record system whenever they leave their computer. Users should not share passwords with anyone. Personally identifiable student records are not permitted to be stored locally on a laptop or any other portable memory device.

14. When do student rights under FERPA begin?

Student rights begin when the student is in attendance as defined by the institution. For CCCS colleges, FERPA rights begin at the time a student begins attending class.

15. When can a college disclose and education records for health and safety reasons?

  • An emergency (non-emergencies are insufficient)
  • In making a determination whether a disclosure may be made to the appropriate party, the college must take into account the totality of the circumstances pertaining to a threat to the health or safety of others.

About CNCC

Colorado Northwestern is one college in two Colorado communities. Depending on what you want to study, CNCC has the perfect surroundings and facilities to meet your needs. Founded in 1962 as “Rangely College,” CNCC now serves nearly 1,600 students on two campuses, two service centers and online. Our two campuses are located in Craig and Rangely and are 90 miles apart in the mountains and canyons of Northwestern Colorado.