Residential Life

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 Basics

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 section.)

  1. 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.
  2. Parents and guardians of college students have the same rights as above.
  3. Parents automatically have the right to see their college student's grades.
  4. There are no exceptions to FERPA's rules.
  5. Having your student sign a waiver is the best way to stay informed of his/her educational progress.

  1. True. These three rights form the core of FERPA and belong to parents before a child turns 18.
  2. False. At age 18 or college entrance, rights concerning education records that parents once held now are transferred to the student.
  3. False.
  4. False. You can gain access to your student's records if:
    • You claim your student as a dependent on your federal income tax.
    • 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 FERPA waiver.
  5. 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 information.

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. 

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