What is FERPA?
The Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA), enacted in 1974, is a federal law designed to safeguard the privacy of student records. Educational institutions that receive funds under any program administered by the U.S. Secretary of Education are required by law to comply with FERPA. Under FERPA, current and former students have the right to:
- Inspect and review their education records.
- Seek to have their records amended.
- Limit disclosure of information from their records.
Under FERPA an "education record" includes information that personally identifies a student as well as information, in any medium, that pertains to the student and is maintained and shared by the institution, including anecdotal information. Education records can exist in any form including handwritten, typed, computer-generated, videotape, audiotape, film, microfilm, microfiche, e-mail, and others.
Under FERPA, a school official is defined as any staff or faculty member who has a legitimate educational interest. Access to student records is based on a demonstrated need to know.
FERPA for students provides additional information for students.
Directory Information Release
You must confirm in a UW system of record, such as the Student Database, EARS, or MyGradPlan, that the student has not opted out of directory information release. If you cannot confirm whether or not a student has opted out, do not release.
Information that can be released
"Directory information" is information contained in the student record that generally would not be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy. At UW, this information includes:
- Student's name
- Street address
- Email address
- Telephone number
- Date of birth
- Dates of attendance
- Degrees and awards received
- Major and minor field(s) of studies
- Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
- Most recent previous educational agency or institution attended by the student
- Weight and height, if student is a member of an intercollegiate athletic team
Students have the right to request that the University not release their directory information. Upon confirmation that a student has opted out and blocked the release of directory information, no information may be released about that student. The recommended response is, “I have no information about that individual.”
Information that cannot be released without consent
The following information should never be given out without the written consent of the student:
- Schedule of classes or number of credits enrolled
- Grades or grade point average
- Social Security number
- Emergency contact information
Are you a new student employee, faculty or staff member? Would you like to brush up on your FERPA knowledge? We encourage you to take the UW FERPA Training Course for UW Employees. Click the button below to get started (UW NetID req'd).
This online module takes approximately 15-20 minutes to complete and provides you with recommendations for common FERPA-related issues that occur at the University. Watch the video and complete the voluntary quiz to receive a PDF certificate as a record of training completion.
UW Employees Only
Many student systems require FERPA training prior to receiving access. After you've completed the online FERPA Training Course and you are ready to request access to these systems, click the link below.
Important things to remember:
- You are considered a school official and required by law to take every precaution to protect the privacy of students.
- Student papers and exams should be handled as confidential and should not be left out where there is any chance others may have access to them.
- When preparing an email distribution list, unless you have written permission of the student to publish their email, be certain you use a listserv or blind copy, to prevent inadvertently publishing the email address of a student who has requested that we not disclose their Directory Information.
- Encourage students to submit in writing any request for a letter of recommendation and to specify what information you may have access to for this purpose.
- Do not give a student’s graded paper or exam to anyone other than the student without written permission from the student.
- Be cautious about what information you share and with whom you share it, particularly over the phone.
- Any anecdotal information you share with others becomes part of the student’s record.
- You are not required to, nor should you, speak to special investigators who are seeking information about students who have applied for government positions. Feel free to refer them to the Office of the Registrar.
- Writing a letter of recommendation may require written permission from the student allowing a faculty member to disclose confidential information from a student's educational records to a third party. It is recommended that before writing a letter of recommendation that contains confidential information-i.e. grades, GPA, class rank, etc- faculty receive the student's written permission to specifically release this information to a third party. Personal observations about a student may be disclosed with the students consent.
The University is required to prevent improper disclosure of information. Although FERPA authorizes the release of information, we are seldom required to release any information.
If you have any questions about FERPA, please contact the UW Tacoma Registrar, Andrea Coker-Anderson.
When in doubt ... don’t give it out!