Understanding FERPA

Office of the Registrar

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 is a federal law enacted at the request of institutes, students and parents to protect the privacy of student education records. For your reference, there are numerous sources of information regarding FERPA such as the Georgia Tech Office of the Registrar’s website and the U.S. Department of Education website. But how does it actually apply to students and parents? The following are some very common questions and answers regarding FERPA in the college (post-secondary) environment:

Why does FERPA exist?

FERPA was created to protect the privacy of student educational records. Students are afforded certain rights pertaining to their educational records under this law.

What are some of the rights that students have under FERPA?

FERPA gives students the right to inspect and review their own educational records, to request amendments to their records, and to have some control over the release of personally identifiable information from their records.

What types of information does FERPA protect?

The only information that is available to parents and the public without express consent of the student is listed in Tech’s definition of “directory information.” Directory information is information not generally considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. Effective November 1, 2009, Georgia Tech considers the following information to be directory information:
1. Name, address (including Georgia Tech email address), and telephone listing
2. Level (graduate or undergraduate)
3. Field of study
4. Enrollment status (full-time, part-time, less than part-time)
5. Dates of attendance
6. Degrees with associated honors and designations, and date(s) awarded
7. Anticipated date of graduation

Directory information cannot include social security numbers.

Students who wish to prohibit the release of directory information can view information on the Registrar's confidentiality webpage.

To what students does FERPA protection apply?

FERPA applies to students who attend institutions (colleges and universities) that receive federal funding, including federal loans, Pell grants, research grants, contracts, and other sources of aid. Since Georgia Tech receives federal funding in most of these categories, students attending Georgia Tech are protected by FERPA. A student is officially considered “in attendance” if registered for classes. It may be important to note that for incoming freshmen, the records are protected as soon as the student registers for classes, regardless of when the term actually starts. Since registration often occurs at FASET, the records are protected as of that time. The type of access that parents have to student records changes once FERPA applies, and this happens as soon as the student registers for classes.

Parents can access educational records throughout grade and high school. Why cannot a parent readily access their student’s records now that he/she is in college?

FERPA assigns certain rights to parents with respect to accessing their student’s educational records. These rights transfer to the student once he/she reaches the age of 18 and/or attends a post-secondary educational school that receives federal funding.

What is meant by “right to consent to disclosure?”

FERPA gives protected students the right to give written permission to the school to release any information from their education record. There are some important nuances to this clause. Schools covered under FERPA may disclose educational records to school officials and other parties with legitimate educational interest without student consent. This could include financial aid administrators, academic advisors, and others on campus whose jobs require them to have access to the information. There is a provision under FERPA for a health and safety exception, but it is invoked on very rare occasions. Any questions about this should be directed to the Office of the Registrar.

What if my student gives me their student ID and PIN? Is it okay to access their records?

No. Georgia Tech has strict protocols regarding usage of and access to computing and network resources. Parents and students are encouraged to review these policies. While the intent may not be in malice, students will be in violation of this policy if they share their Georgia Tech ID and PIN with anyone including their parents. From experience, the best method for parents to understand their student’s grades is to communicate with their student. A student can print their unofficial transcript at any time and may request an official transcript be sent to their parents.

For more information, visit the Office of the Registrar’s website.