Understanding Privacy Rights
After having complete access to your student's academic records in high school, you may be surprised at how little information you can receive regarding their progress in college—even though you may be paying for it.
The University of Michigan system has a strong commitment to protecting student privacy. All colleges and universities are subject to a federal law called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (also called FERPA or the Buckley Amendment). This law sets privacy standards for student educational records and requires institutions to publish a compliance statement, including a statement of related institutional policies.
What is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), also known as the “Buckley Amendment,” is a federal law that gives protection to student educational records and provides students with certain rights. These rights include the ability to: 1. inspect and review their education records; 2. request the amendment of inaccurate or misleading records; 3. consent to disclosure of personally identifiable information contained in their education record; and 4. file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by an educational institution to comply with this law. FERPA also authorizes the release of “Directory Information” without a student’s prior consent, under certain conditions which are set forth in the Act.
The University of Michigan-Flint strives to fully comply with FERPA by protecting the privacy of student records and judiciously evaluating requests for release of information from those records. Furthermore, in accordance with the Act, the University of Michigan-Flint has specifically defined “Directory Information” and provides annual notification to students of their rights in the University Catalog and through student email.
What are education records?
Any record that is maintained by the institution and is personally identifiable to the student is an education record. Exceptions to this are medical records, law enforcement records, employment records, alumni records, and sole possession records such as notes in sole possession of the maker, used only as a personal memory aid and not revealed or accessible to any other person.
What is personally identifiable information?
Personally identifiable information includes but is not limited to: the student’s name; the name of the student’s parent or other family member; the address of the student or student’s family; a personal identifier, such as the student’s social security number or the UMID number; a list of personal characteristics that would make the student’s identity easily traceable; or other information that would make the student’s identity easily traceable.
How is compliance monitored?
The Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) of the U.S. Department of Education monitors schools for compliance. Students have the right to file complaints with the FPCO alleging failure by the University of Michigan-Flint to comply with the requirements of the Act. Failure to comply may result in loss of federal funding for financial aid and educational grants and/or civil litigation.
What is “Directory Information?”
Directory Information is information contained in an education record of a student which would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. At the University of Michigan-Flint it includes the name, home address, telephone; dept, class level, and major field; dates of attendance; degrees received with date, honors and awards; and previous schools attended.
Note: Directory information is information that the university may disclose, but it is not required to do so. It is university policy to refrain from actively disclosing addresses, and telephone numbers; however we routinely verify this information. The university does not disclose social security numbers, personal identification numbers, grade, grade point averages, class schedules, academic actions nor the number of credits enrolled in or earned unless the student has signed a consent form.
Can students control disclosure of “Directory Information?”
Yes, students are notified of their right to control the disclosure of “Directory Information” in the Annual Notification of Rights Under FERPA which is published in the University Catalog. A Request to Prevent Disclosure of Directory Information must be completed and submitted to the Office of the Registrar to have information withheld. If a student elects to control disclosure, a Confidentiality hold will be placed on the student’s record which will prevent the disclosure of all Directory Information including: name, home address, telephone; dept, class level, and major field; dates of attendance; degrees received with date, honors and awards; and previous schools attended. The University of Michigan-Flint assumes that failure on the part of any student to specifically request the withholding of Directory Information indicates individual approval for disclosure.
To whose records does FERPA apply?
FERPA applies to all educational records of persons who are or have been in attendance, including students in online programs, study abroad, or study elsewhere.
To what records does FERPA apply?
FERPA applies to all educational records in whatever medium which are: 1. maintained by the University of Michigan-Flint or by a party acting for the university, and 2. directly related to a student.
Is prior consent always necessary before releasing information from a student’s education record?
Prior consent is not necessary to release or confirm “Directory Information” from a student’s education record unless the student has placed a non disclosure request on his/her records. In addition, prior consent is not necessary under certain other conditions stated in FERPA, such as by court order or subpoena. However, it is the University of Michigan-Flint’s policy that information from a student’s education record be released only by the Office of the Registrar and within constraints.
Where can I get a copy of the law?
A full text of the law is available from the U.S. Dept of Education.
Who should I contact with questions?
Karen A. Arnould, Registrar
Important Note: The above information is intended to give general information about the FERPA and to acquaint faculty and staff with some of the privacy issues surrounding student’s educational records. It is not intended as nor is it a substitute for legal advice on any particular issue.