Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

What is FERPA?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, helps protect the privacy of student education records. The Act provides eligible students the right to inspect and review education records, the right to seek to amend those records and to limit disclosure of information from the records. The intent of the legislation is to protect the rights of students and to ensure the privacy and accuracy of education records. The Act applies to all institutions that are the recipients of federal aid administered by the United States Secretary of Education.

What rights does FERPA afford students with respect to their education records?

1. The right to inspect and review their education records within 45 days of the day the Whittier College Office of the Registrar (College Registrar) receives a request for access.

Students should submit written requests to the College Registrar and identify the record(s) they wish to inspect. The staff of the office will make arrangements for access and notify the student of the time and place where the records may be inspected. If the requested records are not maintained by the College Registrar, the student will be notified of the correct official to whom the request should be addressed.

2. The right to request an amendment to the student's education records that the student believes are inaccurate or misleading.

Students may ask the College Registrar to amend a record that they believe is inaccurate or misleading. They should write the College Registrar or the specific office involved with the record in question (e.g. a department office regarding a grade), clearly identify the part of the record they want changed, and specify why it is inaccurate or misleading.

If Whittier College decides not to amend the record as requested by the student, the college will notify the student of the decision and advise the student of his or her right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment. Additional information regarding the hearing will be provided to the student when notified of the hearing.

3. 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.

One exception which permits disclosure without consent is disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests.

  • A school official is: a person employed by the college in an administrative, supervisory, academic or research, or support staff position (including campus security personnel and health staff); a person or company with whom the university has contracted (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent); 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. Whittier College has authorized the National Student Clearinghouse to provide enrollment and degree verifications to third parties on behalf of the institution.
  • A legitimate educational interest exists if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibilities.

As of January 3, 2012, the U.S. Department of Education's FERPA regulations expand the circumstances under which your education records and personally identifiable information (PII) contained in such records — including your Social Security Number, grades, or other private information — may be accessed without your consent. First, the U.S. Comptroller General, the U.S. Attorney General, the U.S. Secretary of Education, or state and local education authorities ("Federal and State Authorities") may allow access to your records and PII without your consent to any third party designated by a Federal or State Authority to evaluate a federal- or state-supported education program. The evaluation may relate to any program that is "principally engaged in the provision of education," such as early childhood education and job training, as well as any program that is administered by an education agency or institution. Second, Federal and State Authorities may allow access to your education records and PII without your consent to researchers performing certain types of studies, in certain cases even when we object to or do not request such research. Federal and State Authorities must obtain certain use-restriction and data security promises from the entities that they authorize to receive your PII, but the Authorities need not maintain direct control over such entities. In addition, in connection with Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems, State Authorities may collect, compile, permanently retain, and share without your consent PII from your education records, and they may track your participation in education and other programs by linking such PII to other personal information about you that they obtain from other Federal or State data sources, including workforce development, unemployment insurance, child welfare, juvenile justice, military service, and migrant student records systems.

4. The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the College to comply with the requirements of FERPA.

The name and address of the Office that administers FERPA is:

Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Ave., SW
Washington DC 20202-5901

Who is protected under FERPA?

FERPA protects the education records of students who are currently enrolled or formerly enrolled regardless of their age or status with regard to parental dependency. The education records of students who have applied to but have not attended an institution are not subject to FERPA guidelines, nor are deceased students.

Whittier College may disclose to parents, guardians, or other designees information from the academic records of a student provided the College Registrar has on file written consent of the student.

What are education records?

With certain exceptions (noted below), an education record is any record (1) which contains information that is personally identifiable to a student, and (2) is maintained by the college. With the exception of information about other students, financial records of parents and confidential letters of reference to which the student has waived access, a student has the right of access to his or her education records.

Education records include any records in whatever medium (handwritten, print, email, magnetic tape, film, etc.) that are in the possession of any school official. This includes transcripts or other records obtained from a school in which a student was previously enrolled.

What information is not considered part of an education record?

  • Sole possession records or private notes held by school officials that are not accessible or released to other personnel.
  • Campus security records that are solely for campus security purposes and maintained solely by the campus security unit.
  • Records relating to individuals who are employed by the institution (unless contingent upon attendance).
  • Records relating to treatment provided by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist or other recognized professional or paraprofessional and disclosed only to individuals providing treatment.
  • Records of an institution that contain only information about an individual obtained after that person is no longer a student at that institution, i.e., alumni records.

What is directory information?

Institutions may disclose information about a student without violating FERPA if it has designated that information as "directory information." At Whittier College this includes a student's: name, postal addresses, email addresses, telephone numbers, field of study (major, minor, concentration and emphasis), dates of attendance, current enrollment status (full-time/part-time), class standing, receipt or non-receipt of a degree, academic awards received (Dean's list, Department Honors, Honors at Commencement).

How does a student authorize release of his/her education record in the form of an academic transcript?

Students must authorize the release of their transcripts by written request with signature, by completing and signing a transcript request form available from the College Registrar, or by submitting the request online through the National Student Clearinghouse. There is a $5.00 fee for transcripts. The receipt of a written request with signature to release an education record via fax is permissible.

Who may have access to student information?

  • The student and any outside party who has the student's written request.
  • School officials who have "legitimate educational interests."
  • Parent, guardian, or designee of a student as indicated through the Poet Proxy module in My.Whittier.edu.
  • A person in response to a lawfully issued subpoena or court order, as long as the college makes a reasonable attempt to notify the student first. Normally, the college will comply with a subpoena after two weeks have elapsed from the day of notifying the student.

When is the student's consent not required to disclose information?

When the disclosure is (one or more of the following):

  • To school officials who have a legitimate educational interest.
  • To federal, state and local authorities involving an audit or evaluation of compliance with educational programs.
  • In connection with financial aid; this includes Veterans' benefits and the National Student Clearinghouse.
  • To organizations conducting studies for or on behalf of educational institutions.
  • To accrediting organizations.
  • To parents of a dependent student.
  • To comply with a judicial order or subpoena.
  • In a health or safety emergency.
  • Releasing directory information.
  • Releasing the results of a disciplinary hearing to an alleged victim of a crime of violence.

FERPA Resources

The Act The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 as Amended (20 USC Sec. 1232g)
Annual Notice to Students The latest notice sent to students at the beginning of the most recent academic year
Poet Proxy Instructions The Poet Proxy module in My.Whittier.edu is used by students to authorize Whittier College to disclose personally identifiable information to third parties (e.g. parent, guardian, spouse, etc.).
Request for Confidentiality Form

Form to request college officials not disclose directory information to third parties (e.g. insurance company, parent, guardian, etc.) without prior written consent

Request to Inspect/Review Records Form To review your official (paper) academic record.
Request Official Transcript How to request an official transcript of your Whittier College academic record
USDOE Information for Eligible Students Information from the U.S. Department of Education explaining your privacy rights