The following guidance provides eligible students with general information about the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
This document is a compilation and update of various letters and guidance documents previously issued that respond to a variety of questions about FERPA. While this guidance reflects our best and most current interpretation of applicable FERPA requirements, it does not supersede the statute or regulations.
FERPA is a federal law that is administered by the Family Policy Compliance Office in the U.S. Department of Education. 20 U.S.C. section 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99. FERPA applies to all educational agencies and institutions (e.g., schools) that receive funding under any program administered by the department. Parochial and private schools at the elementary and secondary levels generally do not receive such funding and are, therefore, not subject to FERPA. Private postsecondary schools, however, generally do receive such funding and are subject to FERPA.
Once a student reaches 18 years of age or attends a postsecondary institution, they become an “eligible student” and all rights formerly given to parents under FERPA, transfer to the student. The eligible student has the right to have access to their education records, the right to seek to have the records amended, the right to have control over the disclosure of personally identifiable information from the records (except in certain circumstances specified in the FERPA regulations, some of which are discussed below), and the right to file a complaint with the department. The term “education records” is defined as those records that contain information directly related to a student and which are maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution.
FERPA generally prohibits the improper disclosure of personally identifiable information derived from education records. Thus, information that an official obtained through personal knowledge or observation, or has heard orally from others, is not protected under FERPA. This remains applicable even if education records exist that contain this information, unless the official had an official role in making a determination that generated a protected education record.
Under FERPA, a school is not generally required to maintain particular education records or education records that contain specific information. Rather, a school is required to provide certain privacy protections for those education records that it does maintain. Unless there is an outstanding request by an eligible student to inspect and review education records, FERPA permits the school to destroy such records without notice to the student.
For further information, please see Student Privacy and FERPA/PIPA at New York Institute of Technology.