What is FERPA?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a U.S. Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records (www.ed.gov/ferpa). FERPA protects the education records of students who are currently enrolled or formerly enrolled regardless of their age or status with regard to parental dependency. Records of those who have applied to but not attended an institution are not subject to FERPA guidelines, nor are deceased students. The law applies to all schools that receive funding from an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education. FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s education records UNTIL these rights transfer solely to the student when s/he reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level.
What student rights does FERPA provide?
- The right to inspect and review the student’s education records within 45 days after the day Westchester Community College receives a request for access. A student should submit a written request that identifies the record(s) the student wishes to inspect to the Registrar’s Office, Dean, head of the academic department, or other appropriate official,. The school official will make arrangements for access and notify the student of the time and place where the records may be inspected. If the records are not maintained by the school official to whom the request was submitted, that official shall advise the student of the correct official to whom the request should be addressed.
- The right to request the amendment of the student’s education records that the student believes is inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights under FERPA. A student who wishes to ask the College to amend a record should write the school official responsible for the record, clearly identify the part of the record the student wants changed, and specify why it should be changed. If the College decides not to amend the record as requested, the College will notify the student in writing of the decision and the student’s right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment. Additional information regarding the hearing procedures will be provided to the student when notified of the right to a hearing.
- The right to provide written consent before the College discloses personally identifiable information from the student’s education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent. An example of such an exception is the disclosure of education records to College officials with legitimate educational interests. A College official is: a person employed by the College in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support staff position (including law enforcement personnel and health staff); a person serving on the board of trustees; or a student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee. A College official may also include a volunteer or contractor outside of the College who performs an institutional service or function for which the College would otherwise use its own employees and who is under the direct control of the College with respect to the use and maintenance of personally identifiable information from education records, such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent or a student volunteering to assist another College official in performing his or her tasks. A College official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibilities for the College.
- The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the College to comply with the requirements of FERPA. The name and address of the Office that administers FERPA is:
Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202
What is an education record?
An education record is any record that contains information directly related to a student and is maintained by the College.
What is not part of an education record and, therefore, is excluded from FERPA regulations?
- Sole possession records or private notes held by school officials that are not accessible or released to other personnel.
- Law enforcement or campus security records that are solely for law enforcement purposes and maintained solely by the law enforcement unit.
- Records relating to individuals who are employed by the institution (unless contingent upon attendance).
- Records relating to treatment provided by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist or other recognized professional or paraprofessional and disclosed only to individuals providing treatment.
- Records of an institution that contain only information about an individual obtained after that person is no longer a student at that institution, i.e., alumni records.
When is student consent NOT required to disclose information?
FERPA permits the disclosure of personally identifiable information from students’ education records, without consent of the student, if the disclosure meets certain conditions found in §99.31 of FERPA regulations, some of which are listed below:
- School officials with legitimate educational interest
- Other schools to which a student is transferring
- Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes
- Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student
- Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school
- Accrediting organizations
- To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena
- Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies
- State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law
***FERPA also permits schools to disclose Directory Information without consent. Westchester Community College, in accordance with FERPA, has designated the following information about students as Directory Information:
- WCC email address
- Dates of attendance
- Degree information (including major and degrees and academic awards received)
- Enrollment status (full-time/ part-time)
- Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
The main purpose of designating the above information as “directory” is to permit the College to include this information in certain publications, for example, listing your name in the graduation program and submitting your awards and accomplishments for publication in a local newspaper.
If desired, can a student grant permission to share his/her education records with specified person(s), such as a parent or family member?
Yes, a student can grant the College permission to disclose education record information to a specified person(s) by completing the FERPA Release Form in its entirety, having it notarized by a Notary Public, and submitting the notarized form to either the Registrar’s Office in the Administration Building, room 107 or Counseling in the Student Center, room 223.
**Note that this form must be renewed on a yearly basis if the student wants disclosure permission to remain for any specified party.**
Can students choose to prevent having any Directory Information disclosed about them?
Yes, a student can choose to “opt out” of having any general Directory Information (as defined above) disclosed to any party. Please seriously consider the following unintended possible negative consequences before choosing to opt out: For example, organizations such as potential employers, scholarship agencies, members of the press, loan agencies, educational organizations and others will not be given access to the student’s directory information, and will not be able to contact the student. Opting out of directory information classification may mean that you will miss out on valuable employment, educational, cultural and other opportunities.
After considering these possible outcomes, if you still wish to opt out, you must submit a notarized form to the Registrar’s Office (Administration Building, room 107). Please email Registrar@sunywcc.edu with “FERPA NON-DISCLOSURE” in the subject line to request a copy of the form. Once a student chooses to opt out, this exclusion remains attached to the education record indefinitely until the student notifies the Registrar’s Office in writing to cancel.