College students (especially freshmen) may still seem very
young to their parents. That's why it may come as a shock that in
the eyes of the law, they're adults. Even more startling: with that
status comes new adult rights. One of these is the right to privacy
where their educational records are concerned. These rights have
been clarified under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA).
FERPA requires colleges and universities to make educational
records accessible to students. It also protects the privacy of
these records. The term "educational records" includes:
- Health records
- Family background information
- Social security number
- School attendance data
- Grades and scores on standardized tests
- Student conduct records
- Financial Information
Surprising Truths About FERPA
The extent of FERPA's powers may surprise you, but it's important
you understand them. This quick quiz will help. Read the following
statements. Decide if a statement is true or false. Check your
answers below. (You may find it convenient to print out this
- Parents and guardians of public
elementary and high school students have the right to inspect and
review education records, to seek to amend education records and
the right to have some control over the disclosure of information
from education records.
- Parents and guardians of college
students have the same rights as above.
- Parents automatically have the right
to see their college student's grades.
- There are no exceptions to FERPA's
- Having your student sign a waiver is
the best way to stay informed of his/her educational
- True. These three rights form the
core of FERPA and belong to parents before a child turns
- False. At age 18 or college
entrance, rights concerning education records that parents once
held now are transferred to the student.
- False. You can gain access to
your student's records if:
False. A waiver will give you the
necessary legal access, but the best way to stay informed is
through communication. If you establish a relationship of mutual
trust, your student will feel more comfortable sharing
- You claim your student as a dependent on your federal
- Your student is under the age of 21 and has committed an
alcohol or drug offense at the school.
- Your student has given written permission by signing a
Other Privacy Protections
The Health Insurance Portability and
Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is another
privacy protection law you should be aware of. It limits access to
patient medical records and means that medical information is
confidential. It may be disclosed only with the written consent of
the student. Last, if the Free Application for Federal Student Aid
(FAFSA) was filed by your student or someone else, and not by you,
the information on it is also confidential.
For more information on FERPA, HIPAA and other privacy issues,
contact Student Affairs.