Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA or the Buckley Amendment) is a United States federal law codified at 20 U.S.C. § 1232g, with implementing regulations in title 34, part 99 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The regulations provide that educational agencies and institutions that receive funding under a program administered by the U. S. Department of Education must provide students with access to their education records, an opportunity to seek to have the records amended, and some control over the disclosure of information from the records. With several exceptions, schools must have a student's consent prior to the disclosure of education records. Examples of situations affected by FERPA include school employees divulging information to someone other than the child's parents about a child's grades or behavior, and school work posted on a bulletin board with a grade.

This privacy policy also governs how state agencies transmit testing data to federal agencies. The law allows students who apply to an educational institution such as graduate school permission to view recommendations submitted by others as part of the application. However, on standard application forms, students are given the option to waive this right. Many applicants do waive this right.

FERPA specifically excludes employees of an educational institution if they are not students.

What are education records? 

Records -- handwriting, print, computer, videotape, audiotape, film, microfilm, microfiche or e-mail -- of an institution that

  • Contain information directly related to the student and
  • Are maintained by an agency or institution or party acting in its behalf.

Education records do not include

  • Records/notes in sole possession of maker not accessible or revealed to any other person except a temporary substitute
  • Medical records
  • Employment records when employment is not contingent on being a student, provided the record is used only in relation to the individual's employment
  • Records created and maintained by a law enforcement unit used only for that purpose, is revealed only to law enforcement agencies of the same jurisdiction, and the enforcement unit does not have access to education records
  • Information on a person that was obtained when no longer a student (i.e., alumni records) and does not relate to the person as a student

When may a parent access a student's educational records? 

Law allows parental access if student is claimed as a dependent for Federal income tax purposes. Access can also be granted to both the parent who claims the student, as well as the parent who is not claiming the student. Parent(s) must complete Parental Request for Academic Information (available in the Registrar's Office or academic department) each time information is requested. Rights transfer to the student:

  • Upon reaching 18 years of age or
  • Attending any school beyond the secondary level.

What documents does a student not have the right to see? 

  • Financial information submitted by parents
  • Confidential letters and recommendations placed in student’s file before 1/1/75
  • Confidential letters, etc., associated with admissions, employment, job placement or honors to which a student has waived rights of inspection and review
  • Educational records containing information about other students such as grades, test scores, etc.

What is required of UC to be in compliance with FERPA? 

1) Notify current students annually in writing of their rights under FERPA.

  • Right to seek amendment or correction of educational records
  • Right to have some control over the disclosure of information from education records except when release is permitted by law
  • Right to file complaints with the Family Policy Compliance Office, United States Department of Education, within 180 days of alleged violation
  • Since UC has a policy of disclosing personally identifiable information to school officials:

             -The criteria for determining school officials

             -A description of what constitutes legitimate educational interest

2) Grant access by students or parents, if applicable, to education records.

  • Students and former students have the right to inspect and review their education records through established procedures. Request must be fulfilled within a maximum of 45 days after written request is received.
  • Institution or agency is not required to provide a copy of the education record unless failure to do so would deny access. Records cannot be destroyed if request is pending. Fee can be charged unless cost prohibits access.
  • Students and former students have the right to review records of requests for disclosure of their personally identifiable information. Institution needs to maintain records of requests and make them available to students.

What are the legal penalties for non-compliance? 

  • Lawsuit
  • Loss of federal funding
  • Conviction of a misdemeanor under the Public Information Act

             -Confinement in the county jail not to exceed 6 months

             -or fines not to exceed $1,000

             -or Both

  • Dismissal

What if I have a question on what can or cannot be released under FERPA? 

  • When in doubt, don't give it out!
  • If you have any questions on what you can or cannot release, check with your supervisor, the Registrar's Office 513-556-9900, or the Office of General Counsel 513-556-3483.

For more information, visit: 

  • University of Cincinnati UCIT Office of Information Security
  • University Hall
  • 51 Goodman Drive
  • Cincinnati, OH 45221